A "turd miner" no more: Jon Stewart opens up about his reasons for leaving the Daily Show, his biggest regret over the show's 16 years, and his plans for the future in a newly published Guardian interview conducted partly last October and partly a few days after he announced his retirement. Some highlights:
- Stewart says his biggest Daily Show regret is a 2011 interview with Donald Rumsfeld in which, after the former secretary of defense went into his "general gobbledegook," he didn't push hard enough. "That interview with Rumsfeld went shitty, but it’s still just an interview," Stewart says. "He's the one who has to live with the repercussions of what he really did, so there's nothing that could happen on my show that carries that same level of regret."
- He likens the decision to leave to the decision to end a long-term relationship. "These things are cyclical. You have moments of dissatisfaction, and then you come out of it and it's OK," he says. "But the cycles become longer and maybe more entrenched, and that's when you realize, 'OK, I'm on the back side of it now.'"
- Stewart, whose two children are 9 and 10, says another factor is the "combination of the limitations of my brain and a format that is geared towards following an increasingly redundant process, which is our political process. I was just thinking, 'Are there other ways to skin this cat?' And, beyond that, it would be nice to be home when my little elves get home from school, occasionally."
- He also wasn't crazy about the idea of covering yet another presidential election in minute detail. "I'd covered an election four times, and it didn't appear that there was going to be anything wildly different about this one," he says, adding that he's glad the election will provide a wealth of material for the show when he's gone, because "you don't want to leave when the cupboard's bare." South African comedian Trevor Noah will take over later this year.
- It doesn't sound like Stewart will be spending much time watching news networks—especially Fox—after he leaves the show. "Watching these channels all day is incredibly depressing," he says. "I live in a constant state of depression. I think of us as turd miners. I put on my helmet, I go and mine turds, hopefully I don't get turd lung disease."
- So what's next for him? He says he has "a couple of other projects on the burner," but even before he announced his retirement, he said whatever he does—film, books, stand-up comedy—will involve "different vehicles to continue a conversation about what it means to be a democratic nation, and to have it written into the Constitution that all men are created equal—but to live with that for 100 years with slaves. How do those contradictions play themselves out? And how do we honestly assess our failings and move forward with integrity?"
Click to see what Stewart had to say about Trevor Noah's Twitter controversy
. (Read more Jon Stewart