Olivia Munn on How Jon Stewart "Personalized" the News for the Younger Generation
As a correspondent on The Daily Show from 2010–2011, even her comparatively brief tenure allowed Olivia Munn to witness Jon Stewart’s inarguable impact on pop culture — in particular, his way of delivering the news in a way that made a younger generation sit up and take notice despite his humble insistence that he was simply “a comedian doing a comedy show.” EW spoke to Munn — who stars in the upcoming X-Men: Apocalypse — about Stewart’s legacy as he prepares to take his finale bow on The Daily Show and she revealed that, even to this day, Stewart continues to give no-bulls— advice when asked and that he really needs to clean his desk. Like, really.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Tell me about the first time you met Jon and what your impression of him was.
OLIVIA MUNN: The first time I met Jon was when I got a call from my agent saying that Jon Stewart wanted to meet me to join the show. And I was already in New York so I went and I met him I remember just thinking that he was just so nice, and also that his office was really messy. Like, it’s a really messy office in the way that makes you feel very comfortable. There wasn’t anything precious or nothing that was showy about him in any way.
Having watched him on The Daily Show before you auditioned, was he different than how you expected him to be as a person?
The thing that has made The Daily Show so special and so amazing and why it is what it is is because it’s Jon. He puts himself into everything and every script and every joke. He is that guy. He’s the same Jon Stewart. The rest of the correspondents were all actors pretending to be characters, and Jon is up there being Jon. He’s joking and laughing and making jokes, he’s doing comedy, but it’s Jon’s comedy. I feel like that’s pretty close to a part of who he is.
He’s somebody that I still go to and I’ll ask him for advice on something and the thing about Jon is that he always immediately has an opinion, and it’s always the right opinion. When you go to other people for advice there’s a lot of wishy-washyness to their thought process on something that seems very simple. And he has this ability to cut through all bulls— and just see be able to see what the real answer is.
Sometimes there’ll be a project I want to do and I’ll talk to him about it and he’s like, “You can’t do that,” and I’m like, “Oh.” Because he’ll tell me why, and he’s so right, and he’s right every time, and you realize, “Yeah, I wanted to do it only because I got the job and I kind of want to keep working, but it’s a silly thing to do and I shouldn’t do it.” I go to him because I know he just makes such good sense that it would be so silly for me to ignore any of it.
That never surprised me about him. I don’t think it would surprise anybody, it doesn’t really surprise anybody because he is that guy. He’s so smart. But he’s definitely been a huge help and someone that I value in my life.
Do you have like a favorite memory with Jon? It could be either on or off camera, but anything specific that jumps to your mind when you think back to those years?
It’s hard to say. It’s like watching Bridesmaids and you go, do you remember any funny parts? You know, like, it’s all funny. But let me think. I mean, things that I thought were always amazing was that like, they would make a joke out of just whatever we found in our fridge. The extent to where they would go for a joke and how simple it was to make a joke as well.
How would you describe his impact in culture? In comedy, but also in politics or in news in general.
Jon would say — and he doesn’t even say it privately among the coworkers, it’s not something he says on TV — but he really doesn’t consider himself … like, he considers himself a comedian doing a comedy show, but yet we know this effect that he’s had, and it’s just been … he has been one of the only voices who gets up there on TV talking about news events and things that affect our lives and isn’t making himself a part of it.
I think that’s given people an opportunity to just hear what’s going on and then break it down and hear the facts. Yes, it’s comedy and he infuses humor, but he always provides a clear way into seeing things. It’s like when I ask him for advice. Things are very simple. And I think that there’s a simplicity to it, there’s a right and wrong.
I remember when Gabby Giffords was shot and I was working on The Daily Show at the time, and I remember he said something like, “Sometimes crazy is just crazy. You can’t make sense about it. It just is.” And to me it was like, that’s what his gift is. His gift has always been being one of the citizens and one of the people that is being affected by things. He just kind of lays it out the way that makes sense and he says the things that you’re feeling.
It didn’t make the situation better, but it kind of makes you feel … at least for me, it just felt good that somebody was also not trying to overthink things and that they were going around, like, hey, this is a human experience that we’re experiencing, and it sucks.
I think that’s what he’s done for our generation — he’s personalized things more. The things that sometimes maybe seem complicated for the younger generation to understand, politics or finance or the craziest things that happen in the world, he talks about it in such a digestible way. I think for our generation what Jon has done is made the news something that everybody is interested in no matter what age you are. And that’s very hard to do because there’s a lot going on.
What would you want to see Jon do next, now that he’s leaving The Daily Show?
Clean his office. Just clean his office. And he has a few Emmys in a box somewhere. And by a few I mean like, 30. You know, just maybe pass them my way so I can, you know, just use one as a paperweight because it would be a much better paperweight than it would be in his box. But honestly, I would just like him to clean his office. It’s overdue. It’s been years.
I worked there for two years and not once do I remember it ever being clean, and I believe his wife had come in once and tried to clean it for him, which is so sweet. I think it maybe lasted a day.
A version of this story appeared in Entertainment Weekly issue #1375, on newsstands now or available for immediate purchase here. For much, much more from Stewart’s former correspondents, EW will be rolling out interviews with Jessica Williams, Stephen Colbert, Ed Helms, and many more leading up to Stewart’s final bow.