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When Jon Stewart’s Black Impersonation Crossed The Line For ‘Daily Show’ Scribe Wyatt Cenac

On a recent episode of WTF With Marc Maron, former Daily Show writer Wyatt Cenac recalled a moment when host Jon Stewart exploded at him in front of the entire late night show’s staff. It all pertained to Stewart’s imitation of 2012 Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain; an impersonation that just went too far for Cenac. At the time prior to the 2012 presidential election, Cenac was the only black writer and found Stewart’s knock on Cain coming from “kind of an ignorant place.”

Fox News was already on Stewart’s case over the offensive impression. In response, Stewart was planning a segment entitled “everything I do is racist.” When Cenac heard this, he raised his objection over the whole bit in an email to the Daily Show staff.

“I was the one black writer there. It was this thing where it’s like, when you’re the one — whether you want to or not — you’re speaking for everybody. I felt like I had to speak for all the minorities, because there’s nobody speaking for them,” Cenac told Maron.

When Cenac emphasized his reservations again during a writers meeting, Stewart blew his lid:

“He got incredibly defensive. I remember he was like, ‘What are you trying to say? There’s a tone in your voice.’ I was like, ‘There’s no tone. It bothered me.’ … And then he got upset. He stood up and he was just like, ‘Fuck off. I’m done with you.’ And he just started screaming that to me, and he screamed it a few times. … ‘Fuck off! I’m done with you.’ And he stormed out. I didn’t know if I had been fired,” remembered Cenac.

Following the incident, Cenac had an emotional breakdown.

Added Cenac, “I represent my people, and I try to represent them the best that I can. I gotta be honest if something seems questionable, because if not, then I don’t want to be in a position where I am being untrue not just to myself but to my culture, because that’s exploitative.”

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