NEW YORK Jon Stewart, a young, talented comedian
debuting with his very own half-hour prime-time talk show, recalls
getting his big break.
As he remembers it, executives at MTV were working
their way through the phone book and had gotten to the letter "S."
"It went Stern, then Stewart, and I got lucky,"
he said. "I was home and I knew the magic phrase. You say the magic
phrase, you get your own talk show." Press him on the point and
he'll admit to being host of a weekend comedy show once on the music
video network called "You Wrote It, You Watch It." MTV asked if
he had any other ideas. His pitch six months ago leads to Monday
"The first few shows, we're not even going to
let anybody speak," Stewart said. "We're just going make sure everybody
sits in the right place. Then, after that first week, when we're
all a little more comfortable with it, we're going to move on to
Just kidding. Howard Stern, radio personality
and "Private Parts" author, is his first guest. And, of course,
getting musical guests to appear on MTV can't be too tough, can
"You know, so far, nobody has said yes," Stewart
said, shaking his head. "Janis Ian has said she'll do a spoken word,
but that's it. It's very sad. It's a new work, about when she was
15. Because we all know about when she was 17."
Try again. His first musical guests will be the
Gin Blossoms, and guests like Duran Duran, the Cranberries, INXS
and John Mellencamp are slated for the opening weeks.
For the record, Jon Stewart is not worried about
his show. The toughest part has been learning how to be a host.
"My respect for the guys who do it has risen dramatically
since I've tried to do it," he said. "There's a lot to keep in mind
while you're out there."
The departure of Chevy Chase from the Fox network's
late-night lineup underscores that successful nighttime talk hosts
have been standup comedians. Stewart's standup credentials are impeccable.
"I've been working in clubs for six years, at
one o'clock in the morning in front of a bunch of drunk guys who
weren't there to see comedy in the first place," he said. "It teaches
you something about bombing.
"Doing this is another whole range of bombing,
because there's a whole lot more people watching."
Stewart is mindful that his show will be playing
to MTV's younger, hipper 18- to 34-year-old core audience.
"It has all the same, similar structures of a
talk show, but we've skewed a lot of the elements to give it a more
comedic perspective," he said. "It's far more casual. I'll be wearing
a cocktail dress."
Ah, but seriously, folks ...
"We're a smaller show, just trying to keep it
very playful and very fast-paced, trying to do the most fun show
we can do," he said. "We're on at 10 o'clock. If I'm going to put
anybody out of business, it's going to be Forrest Sawyer."
Perhaps most daunting is the task of creating
new comedy for a genre that has had more than its share of genius.
"We have that problem," Stewart acknowledged.
"We'll be sitting in meetings and we'll come up with these great
ideas and we'll be jumping around.
"Then somebody says 'Letterman. 1987,' " he said,
deflating. "We're not even allowed to say Letterman anymore. We
refer to it as 'Martindale,' because we got sick of saying Letterman's
name so much."
So, Jon. Tell the truth. Are you maybe a LITTLE
"What's to be nervous about?" he said. "Your career
hangs in the balance. You've got a show named after you, and there's
nowhere to hide if it sucks. No! What am I worried about? I can
wash socks, man! I know where I come from!"
Comedy, right? The road. That karaoke joint in
Rochester where the comics all bombed and only the karaoke guy got
any REAL applause. ... "Look at me. Already thinking of comedy as
"I'm in trouble."
Copyright © 1993 Associated
Press. All rights reserved.
Thanks to Melly for the article.
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