Jon Stewart isn’t as funny as he used to be, but there’s a good explanation for it.
The comedian’s new Apple TV series, “The Problem with Jon Stewart,” takes a more serious approach to the issues of the day. Sure, that Stewart snark is never too far away, but the early episodes let him explore societal ills without a steady flow of laugh lines.
The series coaxed Stewart to open up to the press about his “Problem” and related issues. He’s no longer on Comedy Central, mind you, and Apple TV is struggling to compete against entrenched platforms like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime.
His strategy makes perfect sense.
It’s why he recently chatted with Marlow Stern of The Daily Beast. The conversation steered toward “so-called” Cancel Culture, the scare quotes revealing the reporter’s progressive bent. Stewart pounced, claiming the term itself has little meaning.
The Daily Beast summarized his comments this way – Cancel Culture is a myth.
“People that talk about cancel culture never seem to shut the f*** up about it,” offered Stewart. “Like, there’s more speech now than ever before. It’s not ‘you can’t say it,’ it’s that when you say it—look, the internet has democratized criticism. What do we do for a living—we talk s***, we criticize, we postulate, we opine, we make jokes, and now other people are having their say. And that’s not cancel culture, that’s relentlessness. We live in a relentless culture. And the system of the internet and all those other things are incentivized to find the pressure points of that and exacerbate it.”
Translation? Nothing to see here, folks. Move along. Except Stewart is either lying or in full denial mode. Maybe both.
So let’s enlighten the veteran comic about Cancel Culture and why he, of all people, should fear it.
Let’s start on the modern college campus. “No Safe Spaces” did an outstanding job of describing how free speech is under furious attack at the university level. The film dropped in 2019, before the term “Cancel Culture” came into full bloom.
It’s still Cancel Culture in action, even if it didn’t have the label yet.
Conservative are mostly targeted on campuses today, their arguments considered “hate speech” and “violence.” The Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro needed $600,000 in security details just to speak safely at UC Berkeley four years ago.
To be fair, Shapiro’s critics wanted to do more than just “cancel” his speech, but you get the idea.
Cancel Culture is a suffocating presence to mainstream Americans, too. Many fear saying the “wrong” thing on social media for fear of termination. A 2021 poll found 64 percent of respondents dubbed Cancel Culture a “threat to freedom.”
Sports broadcaster Grant Napear learned that after he said, “All lives matter” last year following the death of George Floyd.
Comedians may have the most to lose when it comes to Cancel Culture, which makes Stewart’s argument baffling. Roseanne Barr lost her own sitcom, along with millions of dollars and her reputation, after sharing one awful, racially-charged Tweet.
Kevin Hart got bounced from hosting the Academy Awards for bruising jokes about gay people told a decade earlier.
Stand-up Steve McGrew lost a lucrative gig in Vegas after the club owner, Brad Garrett, learned he supported President Donald Trump. Right-leaning comedians and apolitical types alike find their humor spiked by Big Tech censors.
Just mocking Dr. Anthony Fauci can cause social media cancellation.
— Keith Samuelson (@KeithSamuelson2) May 27, 2021
Even liberal comedians have to toe the woke line or be canceled. Keri Smith, a former Social Justice Warrior turned free speech advocate, recalls how one of her comedy clients was told not to tell select jokes before a set.
Indian-American comedian Nimesh Patel, a former “Saturday Night Live” scribe, got yanked off stage in 2018 after one of his jokes rubbed the team behind the show the wrong way.
Stewart’s comments came as Dave Chappelle, arguably the most influential comedian of his era, is under a Cancel Culture-style attack. Chappelle’s new Netflix special, “The Closer,” pokes fun at trans people in a way some dubbed “transphobic.”
The comedy legend appears to be winning, for the moment, but it’s obvious what Chappelle’s critics want him to do.
Shut up. It’s the last thing a comedian should do.
Any Cancel Culture discussion must include the exceptions to the woke rules. Stars like Bette Midler, Alec Baldwin and Jimmy Kimmel break many of the same Cancel Culture bylaws as their peers without punishment.
Or the fact that Morgan Wallen’s cancellation has no end in sight for using the “n-word” once, and not at a black person, while Hunter Biden is raking in thousands with his art after deploying the same word multiple times.
This list could go on … and on. That’s how pervasive, and toxic, the problem remains. And we didn’t even touch on Hollywood’s Cancel Culture revolution and the damage it’s doing to creativity across the board.
It still should be enough information for Stewart to reconsider his “myth” description.
Dedicate an entire episode of “The Problem with Jon Stewart” to Cancel Culture – why it exists and how everyone should fear it, especially a professional comedian.