“Comedy doesn’t change the world, but it’s a bellwether,” Stewart said. “When a society feels under threat, comedians are who gets sent away first.”

Jon Stewart, accepting the Kennedy Center’s Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, warned Sunday night that speculation about the future of comedy amid increased audience cultural sensitivity was ignoring a true and enduring threat: authoritarian governments around the world, reports AP.

“Comedy doesn’t change the world, but it’s a bellwether,” Stewart said. “When a society feels under threat, comedians are who gets sent away first.”

Stewart pointed to Egyptian comedian Bassem Youssef, whose Stewart-inspired political comedy show earned him both fame and self-imposed exile. Youssef’s story is “an example of the true threat to comedy,” Stewart said.

The intersection of comedy and politics was the main theme as celebrities and comedy royalty gathered to honor Stewart, who set the modern template for mixing the topics during his 16-year run hosting TV’s “The Daily Show.”

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