Published on September 8th, 2014 | by Sharilyn Johnson


8 Things TIFF audiences learned from Jon Stewart

Daily Show host Jon Stewart and journalist Maziar Bahari — the director and subject, respectively, of the film Rosewater — were interviewed by CBC Radio Q host Jian Ghomeshi in front of a sold out crowd at Toronto’s Princess of Wales theatre on Sunday. The event was part of the Mavericks sessions at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), where the film will screen Monday night. Rosewater is based on Bahari’s memoir Then They Came for Me, about his 2009 imprisonment in Iran.

Stewart spoke about The Daily Show, making his directorial debut, and how drama and comedy aren’t so different after all.

1) Everything old is new again. Let’s get the ever-important fashion report addressed right off the top. What the audience at the Princess of Wales didn’t know? Stewart didn’t have to troll hip vintage shops to acquire the navy blue Stussy gas station attendant jacket he was wearing (seen here). It came straight from the 90s, via the wardrobe department of the Jon Stewart Show. Seriously. You can see him wearing it in a 1995 Letterman appearance here.

2) “John Oliver is amazing.” Enlisting Oliver as his substitute Daily Show host during filming was a no-brainer. “I knew the level of his abilities,” he said. “The only person who didn’t know that was him.”

3) He isn’t getting serious; he already is serious. He creates satire from a place of wanting to deal with what bothers in him in the world, and while the film isn’t a comedy, making it came out of similar motivations. “We make fun because I’m not sure what else to do.”

4) What satisfies him has evolved. He no longer measures his Daily Show success joke-to-joke. “I feel like it’s a broader satisfaction,” he said, noting his pride in honing the process itself.

5) Conspiracies are hilarious. When asked how he responds to accusations that Rosewater was funded by the CIA and Zionists, he simply said, “I giggle.”

6) He doesn’t fear for his safety. “You can’t live your life with the idea that you’re actively strategizing to protect yourself,” he said. “All you can control is your integrity and your intention.” By the same token, he feels responsible for the safety of others. There were Iranians who wanted to be involved in the film but still had family in Iran, and Stewart wouldn’t allow them to participate.

7) He’ll still be critical of the media. Being intimately involved in the story of a heroic journalist doesn’t mean his views have changed. The work of individual journalists doesn’t absolve the organizations from the poor choices they make in delivering the news, like depending on viewer tweets to fill airtime. That includes a favorite Stewart punching bag, CNN: “Fuck them” for not living up to the journalists who put themselves on the line.

8) Wrong can be right. He acknowledges some choices in Rosewater would be criticized as simplistic. But he believes the story can be best told with these moments of “quiet inauthenticity,” and that it’s key for him “to own that, and pretend no different.”

The full conversation will be aired on Q sometime in November, with video excerpts soon available via TIFF’s website.


About the Author

is the author of the book Bears & Balls: The Colbert Report A-Z. Called "one of the city’s most discriminating comedy critics” by NOW Magazine, Sharilyn has been covering comedy for longer than she cares to admit. She served as the comedy reporter for Winnipeg's Uptown Magazine for five years, and was the host of the radio show Laugh Tracks for three seasons. Her work has also appeared in the Toronto Star, the Winnipeg Free Press, The Apiary, and on CBC Radio's national comedy programs LOL and Definitely Not the Opera.

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