Why Jon Stewart almost quit Daily Show

Credit: Photo by Neil Grabowsky, courtesy of Montclair Film Festival

It isn’t often we get a glimpse behind the public face of the stars we watch every night on TV. Two of the biggest stars these days are Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, who used to work together and now follow each other with their own shows on Comedy Central.

On Friday night, on a stage at the Wellmont Theater in New Jersey to raise money for the Montclair Film Festival, the two comedians and political satirists shared a stage.

If there is any question about the affection the two have for each other, Stewart offered this gem: “I know Stephen lives here [in Montclair], so he’s being very languid, but I want you all to know… This is the most vulgar, profane, dirty, sick individual I have ever had the pleasure of laughing my ass off with.”

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There were more than a few revealing insights. For starters, Stewart shared how he nearly quit “The Daily Show” after just starting there because of how much the staff he inherited hated his ideas for changing it. The two also talked about the guests they hate, their early struggles in comedy, going back on TV after 9/11 and more.

“How close were you to saying that was it, you weren’t going to do it anymore?,” Colbert asked.

“I had to be talked down from a moderately high cliff,” Stewart said.

Sharilyn Johnson, a comedy critic in New York, was there and wrote up a terrific summary that’s worth a read.

She said one of the biggest laughs came from this Colbert story:

Another audience member asked the duo for marriage advice. Colbert told a story about how he used to sleepwalk (which was news to Stewart). Two weeks into his marriage to his wife, Evie, he had a dream that she had a tracheotomy hole in her neck, and little blue ghosts kept floating in and out of it. He decided he needed to stop this, so he placed one hand over the hole. The ghosts kept getting through his fingers, so he used both hands. Evie woke up to her new husband with both hands in strangling position around her neck. She responded with a calm but terse “What… are you doing?” He replied earnestly, “I’m keeping the ghosts in.”

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