COMEDIAN JON STEWART, who headlines
The Improv this week, was having lunch in a Seattle restaurant Wednesday
with the other comics on the bill Doug Benson and John Posain.
"We were ordering and trying
to work the word 'Improv' into the conversation, you know, to let
the waitress know we were there. And she finally says, 'Oh! You
guys are working at the Improv!' And we all went, 'Yeah!' And she
says, 'Oh. So what do you guys do?' It was the strangest question.
We told her we were doctors. We heal people."
Dr. Stewart is part of the latest wave of comedians
breaking through nationally, comics like the acerbic Denis Leary
- the one who smokes - or the smooth, almost smarmy Alan Havey.
They are all, in fact, loosely connected - via cable television.
Havey had his own show on the Comedy Channel
and is now developing something for the networks. Leary also did
The Comedy Channel before breaking out on MTV with his one-minute
ravings on Cyndi Crawford. Now he has movie deals, more TV and an
Stewart got his first big break after five years
in the New York club circuit by hosting the Comedy Channel's "Short
Attention Span Theatre" a year ago. Now he too has moved over to
MTV to host the audience generated "You Wrote It, You Watch It."
"I don't have much to do with the main
show, I only write my segments," Stewart says. "The rest comes from
ideas the audience sends in and we re-enact. MTV is insane, everything
moves so fast. . . . It really has been innovative, but it's hard
to keep up with it. . . . My parts are shot fairly straight, until
they start doing things with the fish-eye lense and moving all over
the place. Then you get this great big shot of like, my nostril.
So that's what the show is: your ideas, shown in my nostril.
"But I am getting recognized more on the
street. People watch MTV, they actually remember some of what they've
seen. At least I'm not getting confused with (folksinger) John Stewart
as much anymore. When I was in Vegas some guy left a song in my
mail box thinking I was him. Another guy left this long rambling
message on my machine going, 'Hey John, remember me from Woodstock?'
I'm getting less of that."
On stage, Stewart is totally disarming. He has
genuine charm, almost boyish in his appeal, while still being sharp
and sarcastic. He says it's because he's a little Jewish guy from
But much of his ability to win over the audience
is in the delivery of his material, which he describes as knee-jerk
liberalism and basic bitching about his life. He has a deft, self-effacing
sense of timing. He can milk the smallest of asides. And he takes
chances. He steps out on a metaphysical ledge and just starts walking.
When he discovers he's run out of ledge, his recourse is a return
to this goofy, doe-eyed, lopsided smile. It works. Whether the jokes
are about New York ("Since the World Trade thing they're warning
New Yorkers to watch out for random acts of violence. That's news")
or government censorship ("I think there should be total separation
of crotch and state").
Stewart plays The Improv tonight through Sunday
at 8:30 p.m. There's an additional 10:30 p.m. show tonight and tomorrow.
Go see him. He's more than a giant nostril.
Copyright © 1993 The Seattle
Times Company. All rights reserved.
Thanks to Melly for the article.
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