"Comedian Jon Stewart Enters the Talk Show Lists"
Associated Press
October 22, 1993
by Scott Williams


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 night's debut.

"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 actual interviews."

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 it?

"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 nervous?

"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 my fall-back."

He grinned.

"I'm in trouble."


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Copyright © 1993 Associated Press. All rights reserved.
Thanks to Melly for the article.

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