Jon Stewart Discusses Apple Departure: No Censorship, But Divergent Goals

Jon Stewart Reflects on Creative Constraints at Apple.

by Nouman Rasool
Jon Stewart Discusses Apple Departure: No Censorship, But Divergent Goals
© Mike Coppola/Getty Images

Jon Stewart's revealing discussion about his departure from Apple highlights the delicate balance of creative freedom and corporate interests in the entertainment industry. Stewart, who launched "The Problem with Jon Stewart" on Apple TV+ in 2021, shared candid insights on a recent episode of "The Town" podcast, discussed by Rolling Stone, about the underlying tensions that led to the show's cancellation after just two seasons.

Despite not facing direct censorship, Stewart expressed that working under a corporate umbrella like Apple inevitably led to compromises. "They didn't censor me, it wasn't about free speech," Stewart noted, reflecting on similar experiences even during his tenure at Comedy Central.

"The deal is I get to do what I want until it's going to hurt their beer sales or whatever it is they want to sell. And that's the deal we all make." The crux of the disagreement seemed to stem from an episode where Stewart interviewed economist Larry Summers.

The conversation, which delved into federal trade interests and corporate profits, included a pointed remark from Summers about Stewart's role at Apple. This led to a moment of tension, described vividly by 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?'"

Clashing Corporate Agendas

Stewart's recount of the executives' reaction and the subsequent discussions underscored a fundamental misalignment in objectives.

"And they go ‘are you going to use that Summers thing," Stewart continued. "We went back and forth for a couple of weeks before the show aired about that particular moment. 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." Despite the fallout, Stewart harbors no resentment toward Apple.

He acknowledged the corporate ethos that permeates many large companies, which often leads to a cautious approach in their operations. "There's a mantra we all have to remember: Corporations are pussies," he remarked, highlighting the inherent aversion to controversy that many content companies exhibit.

This sentiment was echoed in his experiences at Comedy Central, where despite the network's brand leaning towards provocation, the constant threat of advertiser boycotts loomed large. Stewart also mentioned a significant anecdote involving Lina Khan, chair of the Federal Trade Commission, underscoring Apple's cautious stance on sensitive topics.

"I wanted to have you on a podcast and Apple asked us not to do it," he told Khan during an interview on "The Daily Show," illustrating the extent of corporate oversight. In concluding his podcast appearance, Stewart shared that Apple's apprehensive approach extended even to discussions on artificial intelligence, an area he was discouraged from exploring.

Now back at Comedy Central hosting "The Daily Show" on Monday nights, Stewart continues to be a prominent voice in the intersection of media, technology, and societal issues, navigating the complex landscape of modern content creation.