Like Olivia Munn, former Daily Show correspondent Rob Corddry really wishes that Jon Stewart would clean his desk. However, that’s not Stewart’s only eccentricity, as Corddry reveals to EW in a conversation about his former boss. The comedian, who was an essential part of the Daily Show roster during his tenure from 2002–2006, also explains Stewart’s “surgical” approach to comedy and shares some of his favorite behind-the-scenes memories.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Tell me about the first time you met Jon and what your impression was like.
ROB CORDDRY: The first time I met Jon was at my audition. I was very surprised because of the perceived atmosphere of comedy show auditions, which comes largely from the legendary SNL horror shows, where no one laughs and it’s really hard and you think you’re terrible and no one gets it and it’s awful. And this was just the opposite experience. Jon was very easygoing, easy to talk to, and I was a big admirer of his and of The Daily Show walking in, so I was a little starstruck. He really set a relaxed tone, which was constant throughout my tenure there.
Once you started working on the show, how would you describe his personality at work and the vibe at The Daily Show in general?
Jon is one of those guys that is surgical with jokes and he gives notes in a way that … I mean sure, you might be bummed out because you have to take apart the whole piece you’ve been working on for weeks, but he’s always right. And he just does it with … it’s hard for a boss to do that and not leave the room with everyone hating him. He’s got a very convivial way about him. He’s just a dude in the office. When you walk down the hall he’ll just like, punch you in the shoulder and call you by your last name or something. He’s just another guy there.
What’s something about Jon that most people maybe wouldn’t know?
I’ve actually read his diary. Here’s the scoop! Well, I don’t know. You know, I was going to say that he keeps his personal life pretty tight, but I don’t think he necessarily does. His whole life is the show and then his family which he’s not private about, so, he’s kind of an open book in a way — what you see is what you get.
If I could say anything it’s that he’s a mess. He’s a mess. You should see his desk. It’s ridiculous. It would make me crazy every time I went in there. I just wanted to start straightening his desk. It would pile and pile. He had an Emmy wrapped in bubble wrap sitting there that he just hadn’t put away in the closet yet.
And he hates wearing suits. Hates wearing suits. I used to make fun of him for his uniform [a T-shirt, khaki pants, work boots, and occasionally a Mets cap]. We sat down to do a piece once, and he goes, “My wife just bought me 15 new T-shirts, very excited.” And I just pointed out that the only color T-shirt he wears is like, turquoise, and he laughed, but he was kind of embarrassed. He was like, “Oh, you guys can tell that?” Like, “Oh, you saw into my crazy.” The only thing crazy about him is that he just likes turquoise T-shirts.
Yeah. And he can’t get that suit off fast enough at the end of the day.
I was talking to Olivia Munn, and she also made an impassioned speech about how messy his desk is.
He’s got books [piled everywhere], because he reads every book that comes on his desk and reads them at a speed I’ve never seen. I caught him reading a book once he was literally turning the page every 5–10 seconds.
He’s a brilliant guy, and he was embarrassed. He was almost embarrassed to be caught.
Usually people are embarrassed by getting caught by much more worse things than that.
I know, right? It’s just like, speed-reading and turquoise shirts are his big shame.
You were on the show for a while — do you have a favorite memory of Jon? On-camera or behind the scenes.
He was always very congratulatory. The show won a lot of Emmys, but the correspondents at that time weren’t credited as writers. So, the correspondents never got Emmys, which was fine — we understood the deal. It wasn’t a big thing. But he called Sam Bee, Ed Helms, and I into his office one day, and he was at his desk, and we sat down in front of his desk — and of course the desk is full of crap, covered in crap … including three Emmy statues.
And he said, “You guys can each take one thing off my desk.” And of course I grabbed Bill O’Reilly’s book that he was just getting to. It was such a nice gesture. I don’t know of any other show that has done that, and it was a really, really sweet gesture. We call it our Commemmy. It’s a regular Emmy — it’s not smaller or weighs less — but on the back it says “Commemorative.” So it’s our Commemmy.
So you each took one?
Oh, of course. We all took it. Took it and ran out and, whereas Jon would just hide them in his closet unopened, I like to tie mine up in front of my front door and so when people walk in it’s just at head height. So when people walk in it smacks them in the forehead.
How would you describe Jon’s impact on culture?
I think he has created a forum. He has created a genre, I guess, beyond, say, what Weekend Update [on SNL] does for five minutes a week.
The Daily Show is an establishment, almost, that calls out hypocrisy. People call it a left-leaning show. It really just leans away from hypocrisy and goes after anyone that we find to be hypocritical. So if anything he has created a world in which other shows like The Colbert Report and Last Week Tonight with John Oliver can exist, and where existing shows evolve and thrive. I think that is at least the legacy of the show in general.
Especially around that time. I myself was just lucky to have been on the show when I was because George Bush was very good to us.
Now that Jon Stewart is leaving The Daily Show, obviously he’ll probably take a break, but after all that what would you like to see him do next?
Well, I think he’s a fantastic interviewer and I think I would put him up there with people like Howard Stern who is probably the best interviewer of our age. You know, in that he doesn’t ask just the normal questions and most people aren’t on there to promote something, necessarily, but to talk about ideas. It would have to be easy because I don’t think he wants to get back into the mess of work that The Daily Show was, but maybe just a one-on-one, Charlie Rose-type of situation. That would be fun for me at least. That’s what I would like to see him do. I don’t know if he’s interested at all, but I bet you he’s probably still interested in writing and directing films. When I spoke to him about that, regardless of how the film did he seemed to really enjoy the experience of directing. I think that from what I know about him he would be a fantastic director and I would follow him anywhere.
A version of this story appeared in Entertainment Weekly issue #1375, available for immediate purchase here. For much, much more from Stewart’s former correspondents on his legacy, see below.