By Ken Tucker
November 11, 2010 at 12:00 PM EST

Jon Stewart’s hour-long interview on The Rachel Maddow Show was remarkable for Stewart’s unprecedented openness about where he stands when he’s not making jokes.

Because Stewart respects Maddow, he took her up on her invitation to clarify the message many believed he sent out at his “Rally To Restore Sanity”: That there’s a parity of invective on MSNBC and the Fox News Channel. Stewart said his intention was “misperceived,” and what he wanted people to walk away with was the idea that too many have “bought into the idea that the conflict [in America] is left versus right” when the conflict is actually “corruption versus not-corruption” and that “both sides have their ways of shutting down debate.” He told Maddow it’s a matter of “tone, not content” — i.e., that one side may make more sense, but both are yelling too loudly, sensationalizing serious ideas. He also said of the speech he gave at the end of his rally, he felt that after “12 years, I’d earned a moment to tell people who I was.”

Stewart told Maddow, “I love the voices that I hear on MSNBC” and that among The Daily Show staff, “we have a special place in our hearts for Fox,” and you can bet he meant that last quote sarcastically. He told Maddow, “you can edit this out,” but “I like you.”

These are merely the entertainment headlines to be gleaned from their discussion. Certainly it was more clear than ever before that Stewart considers himself a thoughtful partisan satirist who — despite his mild protests that he’s a critic (he likened himself to Roger Ebert, was the example he used) who’s “in the stands and [not] on the playing field,” as he insisted Maddow is — is inevitably a player in the national discourse. I’m not going to try and boil down what was a long, interesting discussion of how politics and broadcast journalism conspire, resist, bait, and feed off each other. You can — should — go to to watch the entire interview.

Photo credit: NBC/Virginia Sherwood

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