Jon Stewart says being away from the daily grind of TV for the last six years — after he left The Daily Show and before his return in AppleTV+'s The Problem with Jon Stewart — was the hard reset he needed.
"I felt like The Daily Show [became] like looking [at] life through that tube — the cardboard roller that you pull out of a paper towel roll," he said on Wednesday's Today show. "You have a sense that that kind of becomes your world. You're so hyperfocused on this one thing that it gives you this really narrow field of view."
However, he said it was eye-opening in the best of ways.
"So you remove the tube and — oh my god! — it feels like one of those videos where the guy puts on the glasses for the first time and sees colors. [Crying tears of joy, saying:] 'I had no idea that all this was going on!' I think for the first few months after leaving the show, I was a little Forrest Gump-y — just out in the world like: Huh? What? You don't need to swipe the card, you just hold it up? And suddenly the groceries are yours? Impossible! Outrageous! I love it."
He also felt there was definitely an element of "Rip Van Winkle to it."
Stewart also said there was the public perception that in his stepping back from TV after the success of The Daily Show, it "somehow diminished your life and experience by removing this incredible opportunity you had, this incredible success you had." However, he found joy in simplicity — like picking up his two children, Nathan, 17, and Maggie, 15, at school and observing them chatting in the backseat of the car on the way home.
"That informed how I went back to doing another television show," he said of The Problem with Jon Stewart, which is slated for eight episodes instead of his old Monday-Thursday grind when he was on Comedy Central. "I think they refer to it as balance."
Stewart said despite his hiatus being during the Trump years, when presumably he'd have a lot to weigh in, he never had the sense that he needed "an outlet," like another show, to "get things off my chest all the time" during that time.
When he coming up with the idea for The Problem with Jon Stewart, in which each show does a deep dive into one problem facing the country, was "the first time I thought: Oh, that feels like an evolution to me that makes sense. That was more the motivation of it."
Though Stewart added, "Also, the children and Tracey have had enough of me," as he noted he also took up drumming during his break and isn't that great. "That was a lot of it as well. They felt like: Why don't you do two shows a day?" he laughed.
The Problem With Jon Stewart starts streaming on Sept. 30.