Jon Stewart Shares the Tragic Story that Inspired His New Show ‘The Problem’

Jon Stewart has a new show on Apple TV+ that’s pretty different from The Daily Show. His Comedy Central show was a satirical nightly news broadcast, which Trevor Noah now hosts. The Problem with Jon Stewart is an hour- long show, or 45 minutes without commercials. In The Problem, Stewart and a panel of guests discuss a specific topic more deeply. 

Jon Stewart attends Luis Alvarez's funeral
Jon Stewart (center) | attend the funeral mass Timothy A. Clary/AFP via Getty Images

In a recent interview, Stewart said The Problem with Jon Stewart was born out of a tragedy. Stewart advocated Congress for a health care bill for 9/11 first responders. The death of one them inspired The Problem, new episodes of which stream biweekly on Apple TV+.

Luis Alvarez was the reason Jon Stewart created ‘The Problem’

Stewart got to know first responders who went into the World Trade Center after the planes hit. Some of them died during the years it took for them to petition Congress. 

“Ray Pfeiffer who was a firefighter that had come down and lobbied with us and this guy Luis Alvarez who’s a cop,” Stewart said on the Smartless podcast. “He had been in the armed forces and then he was on the bomb squad. Just this unbelievable guy and he’d been through 160 chemotherapies. We knew we were losing Lou over the past six months to a year that we’d been advocating and bringing him down to D.C.”

The last time Alvarez testified, Stewart could tell the end was near. Pfeiffer would also die, but Alvarez’s final days literally began with that testimony.

Jon Stewart and Luis Alvarez testify before Congress
L-R: Luis Alvarez and Jon Stewart | Zach Gibson/Getty Images

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“So Lou gives his testimony and it’s about I’m here because I don’t ever want other people to go through what I’ve been through and I’m here to make sure that that doesn’t happen,” Stewart said. “Lou felt, there’s something off. This guy’s pretty stoic to begin with but I could tell. That night, his liver fails, he goes into hospice. That night, literally on the way back from Washington.”

Jon Stewart was appalled by Congress’s reaction to Luis Alvarez

While Alvarez used his last bits of strength to speak up, Stewart was appalled that Congress treated it like just another day at the office. And the average day in Congress wasn’t very respectful, according to Stewart. 

“Lou’s to my right and we’re in this room of Congresspeople, half of whom don’t even show up to the hearing,” Stewart explained. “I think the committee’s 18 Congresspeople. There’s like 7 who are there. Two of them, Louie Gohmert and Jim Jordan, I think they’re in the Dumbass Coalition. I think that’s the official title. They come in, they sit for a minute, get counted as present and then take their name tags and leave. So they count as present.”

Stewart spoke up about the lack of attention given to the 9/11 first responders.

Jon Stewart sits at his desk hosting The Problem
Jon Stewart | Apple

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“So I’m furious. I rip into the congresspeople for their inattention,” Stewart said. “These guys answered the call five seconds after 9/11. It’s been f***ing 18 years. What are you doing? I was complaining about how there was nobody there in the room. Seven congresspeople, it’s a metaphor for the way that we ignore [people]. They all hold them up as heroes, never forget the heroes of 9/11. Here these guys are and nobody’s in the f***ing room.”

‘The Problem’ is about people in charge who don’t follow through 

Stewart said the the fact that Alvarez used his last days to testify before Congress, and they ignored him, illustrated the problem. That’s how The Problem with Jon Stewart came to be. 

“The head of the commitee, I think his name is [Steve] Cohen, he’s a Congressman, Democrat, says to me, ‘Look, I understand you’re upset but please know, we’re very busy,’” Stewart said. “That right there crystalized for me what the issue was. I’m sitting next to someone who has decided to spend his last moments on this earth advocating for those who are suffering from similar fates ot his and trying to alleviate some of the consequences that they may face int he future if this doens’t get done. And this motherf***er’s just like, ‘I’ve got 10 meetings today. I mean, you can’t expect me to go to all of them.’”

The Problem with Jon Stewart features a panel of speakers
jon Stewart (left) welcomes a panel that includes, from left: Capt. Le Roy Torres (Ret.), Rosie Torres, Julie Tomaska, Sgt. Isiah James (Ret.), Gina Cancelino and Staff Sgt. Wesley Black (Ret.) | Apple

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The first episode of The Problem with Jon Stewart tackles the subject of war. More specifically, it addresses the way government says “Support the troops” but fails to provide care for veterans when they come home. 

“To me, that’s the disconnect,” Stewart said. “It’s rhetoric vs. reality. It’s those who are affected by things vs. those who control them. The Daily Show was like being a weatherman for the daily bullsh*t. I’m hoping that this show is more of a climatologist review. How are these systems incentivized and how do we rearrange them?”

Source: Smartless podcast