Jon Stewart: 'Pronoun Police' Isn't the Threat to Comedy

It's the 'fragility of leaders,' he says in accepting Mark Twain honor
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 25, 2022 6:05 AM CDT
Jon Stewart: 'Pronoun Police' Isn't the Threat to Comedy
Mark Twain Prize recipient Jon Stewart is introduced at the start of the 23rd annual Mark Twain Prize for American Humor at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on Sunday in Washington.   (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

Jon Stewart collected one of the rarest honors in comedy Sunday night, the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. It was mostly a night of laughs, notes the Washington Post, though Stewart himself delivered a more serious message about comedy and the modern world:

  • “Comedy survives every moment," said Stewart. It "doesn’t change the world, but it’s a bellwether. We’re the banana peel in the coal mine. When society is under threat, comedians are the ones who get sent away first.”
  • "Having Bassem here is an example of the true threat to comedy," said Stewart, referring to Egyptian comedian Hassem Youssef, per NPR. (Youssef's Stewart-inspired show got him in trouble with authorities in Egypt.) The real threat, Stewart said, is "not the fragility of audiences" or "the pronoun police," but "the fragility of leaders."

  • Youssef: "I called Jon and said, 'I'm so scared. I don't know what to do. The new authority is too powerful.'" Youssef said Stewart suggested he "make fun of the fact that you cannot say anything. Make fun of the fact that you are afraid. People will feel you, and fear will be your satire." Youssef says he "did exactly that and people felt it and it was the most popular episode ever."
  • Dave Chappelle: “It is a miracle to watch you work," he said of Stewart, per the AP. "You are a cure for what ails this country."
  • Steve Carrell: He recalled an early Daily Show assignment "to visit a venom research facility in Nebraska." Carrell said he discovered upon arrival that "the research facility was a mobile home full of snakes," which Stewart loved. "As he watched it he jokingly said over and over it would've been 'great' if I'd actually been bitten by a snake."
(More Jon Stewart stories.)

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