Jon Stewart stood up for comedy in a cancel culture era during his speech as he accepted the Mark Twain Prize on Sunday night.
“We’re the banana peel in the coal mine,” he said at the Kennedy Center, where he was honored by comedians and actors including Dave Chappelle, Steve Carell, Jimmy Kimmel and Samantha Bee.
“When society is under threat, comedians are the ones who get sent away first. It’s just a reminder to people that democracy is under threat. Authoritarians are the threat to comedy, to art, to music, to thought, to poetry,” he added.
Although he acknowledged a threat to comedy in highly-charged times, Stewart said comedy “survives every moment.”
“The Problem with Jon Stewart” host went on to address the difficulties of life in the comedy field.
“When you’re a comic, you look in a room and 200 seats are facing one way. And there’s one stool, and it has a light shining on it, and you walk into that room and go, ‘That’s gonna be my chair,’ ” he said.. “And you spend the rest of your career trying to earn that stool.”
Stewart also suggested that protecting comedy doesn’t start with the people that come out to watch the shows.
“What we have is fragile and precious, and the way to guard against it isn’t to change how audiences think, but to change how leaders lead,” he said.