Jon Stewart on his new movie 'Irresistible' and the role of media in politics

Jon Stewart spoke to Yahoo Entertainment about his new political comedy, "Irresistible," and how it portrays the role of media in politics today.

He also discussed how the media could be more "productive" in covering today's polarizing news and the "churn" of media evolving to suit our times.

Video Transcript

- I would like to offer my services--

Can we quiet the cows please?

--to help him run for mayor of Deerlaken.

And if you could get some of them to face front.

ETHAN ALTER: The movie makes it fairly clear that the media is, in part, to blame for where we are now politically. Do you feel it's gotten worse since you've left "The Daily Show," media coverage of politics?

JON STEWART: Yeah, it's gotten more intense. The money is larger. The whirlpool. There is a connection to media, the political operatives, and the fact that campaigns never end.

And it's become its own industrial complex, and just-- it's self-propagating, to a certain extent, and sort of serves its own purposes, as opposed to what maybe we could use it for. I certainly don't blame the media for the moment.

But, boy, would that be a good tool to help get us out of it, and I'd love to see it function in a manner that is maybe more productive.

ETHAN ALTER: I remember on the last episode of "The Daily Show," you warned your viewers, your fans, to always be vigilant of bull-[BLEEP].

JON STEWART: So I say to you tonight, friends, the best defense against bull-[BLEEP] is vigilance. So if you smell something, say something.


ETHAN ALTER: Do you think we've done that, or have we gotten lazy?

JON STEWART: No, no, no, no, no. I mean, I think there are wonderful voices out there who call things out. You know, sometimes when you critique a system it makes you think that you don't think there's anything of value within that system. But I don't feel that way at all.

I feel that the gravitational force of the system tends to blunt the better people and the good storytelling and things like that. It tends to-- you know, it's a spectrum of clarity to noise. And the louder the noise gets, the harder it is for clarity to break through.

ETHAN ALTER: One could say that we've gotten a little intellectually lazy about questioning things like the coronavirus or police, that maybe that's a little bit on us not asking hard questions.

JON STEWART: Sometimes it's not enough to just be inactive. It's not enough to know that it's wrong. You have to actively tear it down. And sometimes we're not able to do that. But that's also human nature. You know, people are-- they're in their own lives, and life is not easy for a lot of people.

So that's why these institutions exist to sort of allow people to have a hand in creating something better.

ETHAN ALTER: To that point, we're seeing a lot of media gatekeepers getting torn down or taken down right now. The staff of "The New York Times" is changing. Other institutions are changing. Is that an encouraging thing for you, this idea that we might finally [INAUDIBLE] because of these protests.

JON STEWART: I think churn is an important thing. But, again, we overemphasize the importance of the media and that nobody likes a good media story as much as the media. And while that's important, I think we saw that editorial authority is earned, it's not just given.

But in the same way, American exceptionalism is earned. It's not just given. It's not a title like Miss America. You're like, we're exceptional, and we wear that sash forever. Like, everything needs work and pruning and rethinking and active management, no matter what it is.

ETHAN ALTER: And certainly political institutions are changing, and the Democratic party is facing a different future now. Gatekeepers are being torn down there. Is that some-- you take aim at them in your film, for sure. Are you excited by the change that you see happening in the party, the Democratic party?

JON STEWART: Sure. Any time people bring an idealistic energy to it, it's exciting to see. There's a spectrum on this that is all the way from, you know, superficial reform to Arab Spring. And you kind of want to land somewhere where the change is sustainable but doesn't-- isn't nihilistic.

You know, you kind of want to make sure-- because people won't stand for chaos, you know. It's not-- it won't make the type of change you want sustainable. I love seeing people expressing their ideas and getting a process that's more closely tied to what people actually need than the narratives.

ETHAN ALTER: Do you have hope that Joe Biden will be the transitional candidate he's promised?

JON STEWART: You know I never speculate on-- you know, my greatest hope is that I'm seeing people grassroots standing up and getting involved and saying, what I am seeing has so distressed me that I will no longer sit on the sidelines.

And I very much admire them, and I think that's-- you know, if we're gonna make America great again, to me, that will be the key.

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