Jon Stewart is doing the rounds this week ahead of the premiere of his new Apple TV+ series, The Problem with Jon Stewart. I am skeptical, but it’s Jon Stewart, so I’m at least willing to see where it goes. In the meantime, he’s discussed why he left The Daily Show (his mind was “wandering”), why he was wrong about Donald Trump (he didn’t realize the qualities that made him a “buffoon” also made him very “dangerous”), and he addressed the lab leak conspiracy theory he floated on Stephen Colbert a few weeks ago.
It didn’t sound like a joke or a bit at the time, and it certainly seemed to make Stephen Colbert uncomfortable, so I wondered if he’d follow up and offer some clarity. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, he did follow up but did little to clear things up. In the interview, he was asked how he felt that his old Crossfire interview with Tucker Carlson blew up and went viral again recently.
Oh, sure, it’s democratized connection and also democratized destruction. It’s like everything. Not to quote MC Hammer, but you can’t take the measure without considering the measurer. It’s kind of the point I was making on Colbert that everybody got mad about, which was, “These are just tools, we’re the ones that fuck them up.” So yeah, it’s exciting and connecting and incredibly dangerous, like pretty much everything we’ve ever made.
You’re referencing your June appearance on The Late Show where you went all in on the theory that the coronavirus originated from a lab in China. I couldn’t tell if Colbert was entertained by your bit or maybe a little nervous.
I don’t think he was nervous. It’s not like he doesn’t know what I’m going to say. Listen, how it got to be that if it was a scientific accident, it’s conservative, and if it came from a wet market, it’s liberal, I don’t know — I’m just not sure how that got politicized. But it was an inelegant way to get to a bit that I’ve done for years, which is our good-intentioned brilliance will more than likely be our demise. The bit is about the last words that man ever utters, which are, “Hey, it worked.” I guess I was a little surprised at the pushback.
I agree with the larger point that we shouldn’t be choosing sides based not on the facts/science but on how others with whom we politically align choose. But that’s not what this was. The liberal position on the origins of the COVID-19 virus is backed by science and facts (at least as we know them), while the conservative position is based on coincidence. So this fails as a “bit,” and mostly only works as misinformation to be weaponized by conservatives.