Comedian Jon Stewart said that watching comedian-turned-Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky face down the Russian invasion of his country was a bit like “watching Shecky Greene” — a Las Vegas nightclub comedian in the 1950s and 1960s — “transform into Winston Churchill.”
Stewart, speaking with writers Robby Slowik and Rob Christensen during Friday’s episode of his podcast, “The Problem with Jon Stewart,” made the comparison after joking that comedians were often noted for their bravado — but not necessarily their actual bravery.
“Boy, oh, we are comedians and we know the general brand of cowardice that runs through our business and the, you know, that fake braggadocio that comes from standing on stage and heck — you know, having a heckler and destroying him with a microphone,” Stewart began.
“What this dude is doing … it is incredibly moving,” Stewart continued. “I mean it’s — we’re watching Shecky Greene into Churchill. Like his grace and … What a terrible time to kind of notice the real spine of this country. I wish it was not in such terrible circumstances.”
Stewart went on to note that the people of Ukraine had close cultural ties with the people of Russia even if they didn’t share a language and leadership.
“It it, you know, New Jersey attacking Staten Island,” he added. “I mean it’s just the weirdest, you know, there’s so much shared history. And I — we’ve never seen something like this in our modern era of — listen. No one’s going to excuse the larger countries and some of the imperialist adventures we go on, and some of the false justifications we make for it, but generally there will be a period of attempt to paper over bald nationalism or crass economic interests with some high-minded rhetoric about something.”
Stewart then addressed Russian President Vladimir Putin, who he said was approaching the invasion in a very different manner.
“Putin was just like, ‘Yes, we’re going to go in and kill everybody.’ You’re just like, wait, what?” he continued. “It’s such a bizarre throwback.”
But it was really Zelensky’s response to Putin that Stewart thought was the most interesting part of the ongoing situation.
“I sort of keep thinking of the comic’s table at the Cellar and the idea that someone from that little round table has been forced into this incredible feat of courage and statesmanship, and I sort of imagine, you know, when you’re sitting around the comic’s table and everybody’s telling their horror stories, like, ‘I once opened at a Fuddruckers and there wasn’t even a — people just kept coming in and using the f***in’ fixings bar.’ And like, Zelensky’s at the table, you know, and you’re all telling your horror stories of gigs and things and he’s just like, ‘Uh, I was attacked by the third largest army in the entire world.'”
Watch Stewart’s full comments here: