Oprah: Theater that isn't really challenging.
Jon: The reason everyone on Crossfire freaked out is that I didn't play the role I was supposed to play. I was expected to do some funny jokes, then go have a beer with everyone. By stepping outside of my role, I stunned them. Imagine going on Crossfire and expressing an opinion that causes a problem. Apparently, the only people you cannot put in the crossfire are the hosts of Crossfire. What they do isn't real. It's talking point, talking point, talking point. It's like, "We all understand this is a game. Now let's go have dinner." But for those of us watching at home, it's not a game. It's frustrating. And it wasn't their dismissiveness that riled me; it was their condescension. It was like, "How dare you come on here and not do what you're supposed to do?"
Oprah: Because you're supposed to be a comedian.
Jon: Right. What I ultimately said was, "Tomorrow I'll go back to being funny, and you guys will still blow." I have no respect for them. It was as if they thought I was suddenly taking myself too seriously. What do you think The Daily Show is about? Just because we're comedic doesn't mean we don't care about this stuff. We do.
Oprah: I love that you told John Edwards he'd have to announce his candidacy someplace else because it didn't count on a fake news show.
Jon: Right. My interview with John Kerry wasn't very good.
Oprah: You don't think so?
Jon: No. Our interviews either have to be really funny or find some humanity in the subject. I didn't do either. He remained guarded throughout, so it struck me as a boring fencing match.
Oprah: When I'm talking with politicians, I can't break that wall.
Jon: Politicians are salespeople. If you're trying to sell a product, what's more powerful than an appearance on Oprah's show? In the last four months, one book overtook America on Amazon. It's called He's Just Not That into You. When I saw that title, I said, "What the hell is that?" Somebody told me, "The author was on Oprah." So politicians see your show as their chance to display their theatrical humanity, not their real humanity. They come on my show to display their theatrical sense of humor—and to show that they're down with the kids.
Oprah: Kerry didn't accomplish that.
Jon: No, he didn't. Because he was—like I was on Crossfire—tired and in a certain mood.
Oprah: Right. So you don't think you'll be doing The Daily Show in 20 years?
Jon: I don't want to be. I love my wife, and we want more kids. I'm not going to disappear, but I don't want to work this hard.
Oprah: What kind of daddy do you want to be?
Jon: The kind who stays. The kind who doesn't say to a 9-year-old kid, "This doesn't mean your mother and I don't love you" as he's heading out the door.
Oprah: What's important to you?
Jon: That. I've achieved far more than I ever thought I would. I'm not complacent, but I don't think long-term. I tell myself, "If I get good at this, it'll be fun to do."
We Hear You!