Jon Stewart talks about breaking things off with Apple: “Our aims don’t align in any way”

Stewart has gone into more detail about the problems with The Problem With Jon Stewart

Jon Stewart talks about breaking things off with Apple: “Our aims don’t align in any way”
Jon Stewart Photo: Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Comedy Central

The cancellation of Apple’s The Problem With Jon Stewart remains one of the more fascinating “failures” in the short history of streaming TV: A tech giant with aspirations to prestige television journalism hired one of the medium’s most determinedly independent minds to launch deep dives into the issues affecting the world…and then got decidedly uncomfortable when, among other things, its own impact on the planet frequently became part of the conversation. Stewart, now ensconced on a weekly basis back at his old stomping grounds at The Daily Show, has talked a few times about why friction with his corporate overlords led to the show’s demise, but he’s now getting into fascinating specifics, including “weeks” of conversations about whether an interview in which Stewart acknowledged that Apple “gouges” its prices would ever see digital air.

Interview with Larry Summers, Former Secretary of the Treasury | The Problem with Jon Stewart

This is per Variety, reporting on an appearance Stewart recently made on The Town podcast, where he talked about a (mostly hostile) interview he did with economist Larry Summers, who asked Stewart, point-blank, if he thought “Apple was somehow gouging, or doing something wrong” with its profit-seeking behaviors—which got an instant “Yes, of course!” from Stewart, who wasn’t going to try to say his corporate owners were any better than any others.

Stewart:

We play the interview for the audience, they explode like we just hit a three-pointer at the buzzer. The show ends, we go downstairs in full Rudy mode. The Apple executives walk into the dressing room afterwards with a look on their face and I was like, “Oh my God, did the factory explode, what happened?”

The clip ultimately did air, after weeks of discussion, but Stewart says it was the point where the relationship came into full focus for him. “It was then that I realized, ‘Oh, our aims don’t align in any way.’ We’re trying to make the best most insightful execution of the intention that we can make, but they’re protecting a different agenda. And that’s when I knew we were in trouble.”

Stewart emphasized that he bears no ill will toward the tech giant—although he did later emphasize the core fear that drives corporate thinking on the topic of any possible controversy:

There’s a mantra we all have to remember: Corporations are pussies. They are now, and they always have been. They’re not looking to cause problems. I worked on Comedy Central, their lawyers were constantly under the threat of advertiser boycotts. Comedy Central’s brand was provocation, to some extent. And so that was for the most part positive for them. Most content companies don’t want that smoke.

Stewart’s episodes of The Daily Show air on Monday nights; The Problem With Jon Stewart remains on AppleTV+, a strange, lingering testament to the gaps between Apple’s stated intentions, and what they’re actually in the business of pulling off with their move into content creation.

 
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