By Emma Weidmann | Intern
The former host of the Daily Show returns to television after years off the air with “The Problem With Jon Stewart” on Apple TV+. A self-described “comedy hybrid show,” the program combines Jon Stewart’s familiar talk show format with investigative journalism and documentary-style graphics. Despite very serious content, Stewart retains his sardonic tone and signature snark.
In the pilot episode, entitled “War,” Stewart and his team of writers dive into the problem of burn pits: the United States military’s method of waste disposal since the first Gulf War, which spews toxic chemicals into the air and into troops’ food. Mixed into these pits can be anything from batteries to medical waste to rotten food and even human remains. This environment has caused blood and lung diseases and several different cancers over the years, yet the Department of Veterans Affairs often denies coverage and healthcare to these service members. Stewart interviews several veterans affected by burn pits, including two founders of Burn Pits 360, a non-profit dedicated to advocacy for these service members. One of the interviewees resignedly states that the VA’s motto seems to be “delay, deny, hope you die.”
This may seem grim, and it is. However, it is offset with the type of dark humor that acts as both comedic relief and an indictment of the system that allows veterans to suffer. While the nationwide narrative is overwhelmingly pro-veteran, Stewart said “the most powerful and lavishly funded, technologically sophisticated military apparatus in the world got rid of their trash the same way Jake Paul does.” He cuts to an old YouTube video of the former child star burning a mattress in his empty backyard pool, hollering and jumping gleefully.
In another instance of gallows humor, Stewart crafts a fake “DIY” burn pit on his countertop, Food Network style. “Thanks to the [Department of Defense] for the recipe,” Stewart said.
Stewart is a headstrong interviewer, whose opinions are intelligent and well-researched. This show embarks against the performative activism that tends to surround veterans’ issues and advocates for transparency and for the safety of those who risk their lives in service of this country. It gives a voice to veterans whose lives have been forever altered, and who have been left behind by the institution whose purpose is to champion their cause. One man testifies that his sickness is too advanced for him to have any hope of health, but if it can be the cause of change and make it so that no other veteran suffers as he has, he would rest assured that he did one good thing.