HE HAS FAITH IN HIS JOKES; THE IRREVERENT JON
STEWART BELIEVES WE SHOULDN'T TAKE OURSELVES TOO SERIOUSLY
Comedian Jon Stewart, who is headlining at the
Irvine Improv this week, targets everything from sex to politics
and the day's news in his act. But religion is one of his favorite
"It's one of the things I was hung up on in childhood
that I sort of worked out," he said by phone from New York last
week. "It always baffled me. I tend to need logic in my life; I'm
very poor with faith." In other words, he said, "I believe in God.
I just don't think he's still looking out for us. I mean, if you
think about it, he created the world in six days -- five billion
years ago! Don't you think by now he's moved on to another project?
Maybe we're just something he threw together for his third-grade
science fair in the first place."
Stewart said with a laugh: "Watch, I'll get picketed
-- 'The Last Temptation of Jon Stewart at the Improv.' "
Stewart, whose credits include "Late Night With
David Letterman," "Caroline's Comedy Hour," and HBO's "Young Comedians
Special," was once described by Entertainment Weekly as "a sharp
social commentator, in the honored tradition of Lenny Bruce."
And how does Stewart describe his comedy style?
"A bitter little hairy man of comedy," he joked.
"I guess it's sort of irreverent -- that people not take their dogma
too seriously. I talk a lot about religion and politics, so hopefully
I'm irreverent and sarcastic on stage -- I guess it's sort of like
every New Yorker you ever met."
Stewart has been doing stand-up for six years.
Before that, "I was a sanitation specialist in a Mexican restaurant,"
he said, explaining that he bused tables. He also had a job working
in a friend's catering business: "I was kind of like their mule,
picking things up and cutting thousands of asparagus tips and things
So what prompted the move into comedy?
"As far as career advancement, if you've ever
bused tables in a Mexican restaurant, you're searching at that point,"
As a kid growing up in Trenton, N.J., Stewart
said, "I always liked comedy. I sort of moved (to New York) to do
It nevertheless took him about a year before he
got up the courage to get on stage, he said, "and after the humiliation
of that first time, it took another four months before I actually
got up there again."
Although Stewart had no previous stage experience,
humor came naturally.
"I'm 5-7 now, but I was very small in high school.
So my role in every social interaction was always the wisecracking
runt who had big friends," he explained. "I think that's sort of
where I got it. That was my role in the group: basically to get
my friends into fights."
For Stewart, the appeal of doing comedy is that
"you're on stage and everyone has to look at you.
"When I first got into it, it was sort of like
bronco riding: 'How long can I stay up here?' But there's an excitement
of being uncensored and just speaking your mind. It's like one of
the most exciting raw kind of forms of (performing) because you're
out there every night. In some ways it's gladiatorial. I think that's
what drew me to it."
Stewart, whose first big break came about a year
ago when he was chosen to host the Comedy Channel's "Short Attention
Span Theater," is now hosting "You Wrote It, You Watch It" on MTV
(Saturdays at 6 p.m.), in which suggestions from viewers' letters
are turned into sketches by a troupe of young actors.
"It's an odd cross between a reality-based show
and a sketch show," said Stewart, who is currently working with
MTV on developing a talk show because, he cracks, "we need another
He said it would have the standard talk-show format,
"but with a pretty irreverent viewpoint." Like his stand-up act,
"it's going to be topical and fresh."
Stewart acknowledged that his frequent exposure
on MTV has definitely raised his public recognition quotient.
"I was really shocked at the high profile that
MTV has. You find yourself in situations you've never been in before."
He recalled buying condoms at a 7-Eleven in Seattle
when a group of teen-age skateboarders came in and one of them said,
"Hey, you're the dude from MTV!"
"Here I am buying rubbers, a 'role model,' " he
said. "You sort of feel like responsible for some reason, so you
think of changing it (and saying), 'Actually, what I wanted was
a Slim Jim . . . . And stay in school . . . don't do drugs.' "
* Who: Jon Stewart.
* When: Thursday, May 27, at 8:30 p.m.; Friday,
May 28, at 8:30 and 10:30 p.m.; Saturday, May 29, at 8 and 10:30
p.m.; Sunday, May 30, at 8 p.m.
* Where: The Improv, 4255 Campus Drive, Irvine.
* Whereabouts: Take the Culver Drive exit off
the San Diego (405) Freeway and go south. Turn right on University
Drive and left on Campus Drive. The Improv is in the Irvine Marketplace.
* Wherewithal: $7 to $10.
* Where to call: (714) 854-5455.
(Photo caption) Stewart: God "created the world
in six days -- five billion years ago! Don't you think by now he's
moved on to another project?"
Copyright © 1993 Los Angeles
Times. All rights reserved.
Thanks to Melly for the article.
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