Jon Stewart Compares 'Daily Show' to Fox News: 'We're Both Expressions of Dissatisfaction'

Host also opens up about disappointment with Obama and the problems with the 24/7 news media in new cover story

jon stewart rs1140 cover
Albert Watson for RollingStone.com
Rolling Stone Issue #1140
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In the new issue of Rolling Stone, on stands and available through All Access on September 16th, Jon Stewart talks to Rolling Stone Executive Editor Eric Bates about his disappointment in Obama, political satire in the post-Bush era and how the 24/7 media is corroding the national debate. "[The 24-hour networks] are now the absolute most powerful force driving the political narrative," he says. "And the picture that they create is one of conflict, because they're on for 24 hours a day, so they have to create a compelling reason for you to watch them. Otherwise, they're just Muzak – newzak." 

He held his Rally To Restore Sanity last fall as an attempt to counteract their message: "The idea of the rally was to say, 'They created this false sense of urgency. It's a funhouse mirror.' That's probably the frustration that people had with the rally: It didn't have aspirations beyond our normal aspiration, which is to point out comedically something we think is fucked."

Other highlights from the story: 

• Stewart says that the Daily Show has a lot in common with Fox News. "We are both reactions to the news and to government," he says. "We're both expressions of dissatisfaction. [Roger Ailes'], I think, happens to be a slightly more powerful version [laughs.] . . . . Ailes was a strategist for Nixon. He comes from the seat of power, and he understands how important the narrative is. We come from comedy, so our natural instinct is not to understand that, and to be bratty. That goes a long way towards explaining the difference between the two organizations."

• Obama has been a disappointment to Stewart. "He ran on this idea that the system and the methodology are corrupt," he says. "It felt like the country was upset enough that he had the momentum needed to re-evaluate how business is done. Instead, when he got elected, he acted as though the system is so entrenched that it has to be managed rather than – I don't want to say decimated, because I'm not an anarchist or a nihilist.  But I'm surprised at how much he deferred to the legislative process."

That's not to imply that he thinks Obama has been a complete failure. "He's maintained an even keel and has not said, 'Fuck this, I quit,' and thrown anything at us," Stewart says.  "I have yet to see him really curse, which I think is nice. He feels like the only president who begins every press conference with a heavy sigh. I think he was already kind of over us by the time he got into office. And now he's like, 'What the fuck is wrong with these people?'"

• Bruce Springsteen remains one of Stewart's heroes. "When I listened to his music I didn't feel like a loser," he says. "I felt like a character in an epic poem about losers…Plus, you would go see his show and he would blow your fucking mind for four hours. At a certain point, you'd want to go up onstage and be like, 'Guys! It's OK. I got my money's worth, like, two and a half hours ago. Save yourself! I don't want you to burn out,. You're giving too much! We do not deserve what you've done here tonight! A lot of us are jackasses!"

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