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​Jon Stewart on politics, family and "Rosewater"

Jon Stewart blends the funny with the serious in a late-night TV mix that is all his own. So it should come as no surprise that he continues to do just that in the talk he had with Mo Rocca for this Sunday Profile:

"Is that really a sun decal on your notes?" said Stewart. "I'm hoping that's from the hotel and not from the Mo Rocca collection."

"No, it's the CBS 'Sunday Morning' logo," our correspondent explained, "and my name is at the bottom."

"Oh, is that true? What, the logo is the sun? I knew that, because I watch!" he laughed. "I'm up all the time. It's right on the screen."

"This piece will end with, like, a decorative sun," said Rocca.

"Is that true? And do all pieces end with a decorative sun?"

"Yes, people send in the suns!"

Jon Stewart can be forgiven for not getting up early on Sunday mornings. For 15 years, he's hosted Comedy Central's nightly news satire, "The Daily Show."

Full disclosure: Our humble correspondent used to be one of his correspondents.

Stewart doesn't just host the show; he runs the show, and it's a daily grind. So naturally, last summer he kicked back by directing his first movie, which he also wrote.

Gael García Bernal as imprisoned journalist Maziar Bahari in the film "Rosewater." Open Road

"Rosewater" is an Iranian prison drama based on the memoir of Newsweek reporter Maziar Bahari.

"I could have made a satire," Stewart said. "We could have heightened the absurdity, and made the characters more farcical. I think it would have absolutely diminished the reality of how ridiculous what happened to Maziar was."

"Ridiculous" is right. One piece of "evidence" used against Bahari was a scene right out of "The Daily Show" -- literally. Bahari had sat for a mock interview in a Teheran café with "Daily Show" correspondent Jason Jones, who pretended to be a spy.

Iranian authorities were unamused.

When asked what he thought upon learning that "The Daily Show" piece had been used as evidence in the interrogation room, Stewart replied, "Law school there must not be necessarily as difficult to get through as it is here."

An international outcry eventually freed Bahari after 118 days.

If you're surprised that 51-year-old Stewart chose such a serious subject, well, then you probably haven't been watching "The Daily Show." When then-Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius came on the show to pitch Obamacare, it made headlines . . . and not the kind she wanted.

SEBELIUS: "Hundreds of thousands of accounts created. We have --"
STEWART: "So hundreds of thousands of people have signed up?"
SEBELIUS: "Of accounts created, which means that then they're gonna go shopping. Jon, this is like a kayak site where you might check out what plane you want to get on."

"Her answers, I felt, were so beyond understanding," Stewart laughed. "Like, what are you talking about?"

And then there's the interview with former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Stewart believe she let Rumsfeld off way too easy in this exchange about the 2003 invasion of Iraq:

STEWART: "So the White House and the Defense Department and the State Department had to coordinate a pretty extraordinary effort to gather information and convince America that this was in our best interests to do so. And would it be fair to consider that in the effort that it took to sell us this . . . "
RUMSFELD: "That's a little strong."
STEWART: "'Sell'? Let me back up: In the effort it took the administration to . . . present?"

Stewart recalled the exchange with Rumsfeld: "You were selling it. You presented the positives. You didn't present the negatives. You present -- "

"'Presented our case.'

"'Okay, fine.' And then I moved on. I should have just stayed there. I lost a lot of sleep on that one. He didn't!"

But Rumsfeld's former boss is one big name who hasn't appeared.

Rocca asked, "If we had a magical device where you could jump from this interview . . . and ask him anything?" Stewart replied, "'Tell me about umber and how it helps you when painting cats.' I think it would be that. I think I would just stick with the painting stuff!

Jon Stewart on the corrupting force of money in politics 00:36

"Jimmy Carter's, like, 108, he's out in Africa, like, pulling Guinea worms out of children's feet trying to cure them. Bush is at home: 'Ah, bring me my fruit bowl, I'm doin' a still life. Heh heh heh'"

"Do you like interviewing politicians?"

"No. I despise it," said Stewart. "As most sentient creatures, I think, would. Imagine having to interview salespeople. They're salespeople! They live in a world of denial and conjuring. It's very strange, it's very strange to talk to people who have lost their awareness that that's what they're doing. At least with a salesperson, they'll every now and again, they go, 'Look, I shouldn't be tellin' you this. This is a piece of crap.'"

Still, politicos and media bigwigs continue to kiss up to Stewart and his young audience.

But he's just fine staying outside the moat, throwing rocks at the castle.

Jon Stewart on the trial balloon to host "Meet the Press" 00:56

NBC reportedly talked to Stewart about hosting its venerable Sunday morning news program, "Meet the Press."

When asked what he think that says of NBC, Stewart sang: "They're confused! They're confused! Dah dah dah dah dah, they're confused!

"They didn't offer me anything. It was just one of those, like, 'What do you think about that?' kind of conversations.

"And what did you say?"

"I don't think that's a good idea!"

"You didn't need to take the weekend to think it over?"


Rocca then asked Stewart how many pets he has. "This is the part of the interview where we humanize you," he said.

"Good luck!" Stewart laughed. "Right now we're at three bunnies, three dogs, a bird, three fish and a hamster. Oh, and a pony. It's a pleasant house. Not for the faint of sinus."

It's a house he shares with his wife of 14 years, Tracey, and their two children.

When asked what he would be like if he hadn't married Tracey, Stewart replied, "I'd be much unhappier. She has the capacity for real warmth and love. She's able to help me experience that. I'm an individual that's much more removed. Like, I like bartending because it's sort of like being out, but you don't actually have to be out."

"And you're on the other side of the bar?"


"Is being a father what you expected it would be?"

"No. It's much better than what I thought," he laughed, "'cause the experience that I had growing up was very different."

When Stewart was nine years old, his father, a physicist, left the family. From that point on Stewart saw his father (now deceased) only sporadically.

Rocca asked, "What did your father think about what you do for a living? Did he get it? Did he enjoy it? Did he think, 'What a strange choice,' or, 'Wow, that's really cool'?"

Jon Stewart on his parents' divorce 01:13

"He was not a man prone to taking chances, or smiling, or enjoying food or music or color," Stewart laughed. "Yeah, you know, he wasn't the happiest, you know . . . My mom ultimately probably is much more, because she is an educator, she's someone that believes in taking chances, she has an incredible work ethic. She believes that no matter what happens to you, if you work hard enough, if you fight hard enough, you will turn it around. That's where all that comes from.

"She's a spitfire, man. She's 81. She'll knock you out!"

So what is Stewart going to do next after "The Daily Show"?

"Oh, I don't know. What do you think? You know what? Have your viewers draw some suns of what they think I should do next -- a doctor sun, different professional suns. That I would like to see!"

"A mountain biker sun?"

"Whatever the sun they wanna draw. And we'll get it done that way."

To watch a trailer for "Rosewater," click on the video player below.

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