During Jon Stewart’s tenure as host of The Daily Show, from 1999 to 2015, his head writers were six white dudes. Many of his top correspondents, including Steve Carell, Ed Helms, John Oliver, and Stephen Colbert, were also white males. Stewart originally dismissed the show’s “women problem,” as Jezebel called it, but during an appearance on The Breakfast Club, he remembers “going back into the writer’s room and being like, ‘Do you believe this sh*t? Kevin? Steve? Mike? Bob? Donald?’ Oh… Uh oh. Uh oh.”
The Daily Show had a policy that kept the names and races of job applicants a secret, so as “to not be sexist and racist,” but Stewart eventually realized “the river that we were getting the material from, the tributary was also polluted by the same inertia. And you had to say to them, send me women, send me black people. And all of a sudden, women got funny… but they’d been funny all along. We just hadn’t actively done enough to mine that.” He also discussed the time he told Wyatt Cenac, the only Black person on staff at the time, to “f*ck off” over an impression of Black presidential candidate Herman Cain:
“It took me a long time to realize that the real issue was that we hired a person who is black… [and] they felt like they’re carrying the weight of representation. So they suddenly feel like, ‘I’ve got to be the speaker of the race.’ So we think we’re doing the right thing, but we’re not doing it in the right way. Those were hard lessons for me, and they were humbling lessons. And I was defensive about them and still didn’t do it all right.”
Stewart (whose new movie, Irresistible, comes out later this week) shared advice for a white man in a position of authority: don’t be complacent. “What’s hard about that for people is you get defensive. Nobody likes to be called on their sh*t, especially when they feel like it’s not really their sh*t,” he said. “But what you realize is, just stopping active persecution isn’t enough to dismantle. It has to be actively dismantled.”
Watch the interview below.
(Via Rolling Stone)