This past year has been very good to one quick-witted
stand-up comic named Jon Stewart. By developing his stabbing social
and political rants which have been compared to the likes of Lenny
Bruce, Stewart, whom the New York Post named one of the hot
new artists of the 90s, has earned himself a place next to
Dave, Jay and Arsenio with his own nighttime television talk show
on MTV called, The Jon Stewart Show.
Described as smart, stylish and appealingly
irreverent, the 28 year olds amusing knee jerk liberalism
and knack for taking politically incorrect risks is earning this
newest member of the late night talk-show wars a reputation as an
alternative choice to boring network chatter. Learning his craft
on the tough city streets of Greenwich Village, the former kid from
New Jersey (who boasts of being the shortest talk show host on TV)
relies solely on his character rather than double-breasted suits,
too cool for the room bands or large flashy desks to
create a uniquely relaxed atmosphere on the youth oriented MTV set.
Coming off his first season, Stewarts list
of guests has been surprisingly impressive (eat your heart out,
Chevy). So far theyve included Howard Stern, William Shatner,
George Foreman, Dennis Leary and Tia Carrere, just to name a few.
Again, taking a rather different approach to television talk, guests
sit, not on what has become the customary couch, but rather on an
old discarded car seat. Unorthodox, maybe, but who can argue with
success. Against some steep odds, The Jon Stewart Show
has been renewed for its second season.
Some of Stewarts other credits have included
an appearance on HBOs Young Comedians Special
and 1992s Just For Laughs Festival in Montreal.
He also has hosted Comedy Centrals Short Attention Span
Theater and MTVs You Wrote It, You Watch It.
Do you consider yourself a player in the late
night comedy wars?
Im huge right now.
Even though your show airs to hours before
the others even come to bat?
Ill be honest with you. I dont think
we do compete with the others. Not only that, but were on
cable. So, more or less, were just competing against the shopping
networks and the infomercials. I dont think were going
to put Letterman and Leno out of business.
You never know.
The N.Y. Post describes you as smart,
stylish and appealingly irreverent. Would you describe yourself
the same way?
How would you describe yourself?
Little and hairy. But if they want to go with
smart and stylish then hey, more power to them. Good luck.
On October 25th The
Jon Stewart Show premiered on MTV. Since then have your expectations
of having your own talk show changed?
I guess Im not as intimidated by it as I
was when I first started. Now Im a lot more comfortable within
the confines of it. Its like any new job. When I used
to bus tables, the first day I worked at the restaurant I was like,
Uh, wheres the ketchup? But after a while it becomes
So has having your own talk show become second
Yeah, Im feeling a lot more comfortable.
I feel like Ive really gotten my rhythm down.
Unlike other talk shows youve abandoned
the desk, the suit and the band.
Yes. We couldnt afford all that stuff.
Doesnt missing those three ingredients
make you feel naked out there?
Well the good thing about MTV is that were
allowed to use all the stuff that they have in their video library
so we dont need a band. So, we have access to all the
great bands, plus I like it better not having any of those other
things. It gives us a really raw feeling. I think the
look of our show is low rent yet at the same time very playful.
The atmosphere is not intimidating at all. Its a very
comfortable place to hang out.
When you decided on the look and attitude
of the show, was the game plan to do the opposite of whatever Chevy
(Laughing) We didnt know
what Chevy Chase was doing at the time! It just turned out
thats what we did. But that would have been a really
good game plan! Unfortunately were not that smart.
Basically, the game plan was to do something that I would have felt
comfortable with because I figure that if Im comfortable then
the show, hopefully, will be a little more comfortable.
Have you experienced any difficulty getting
guests because the show airs on MTV?
Probably, but thats something that Im
not aware of. I think its more difficult because its
a new show. Any time you start a new show, people want to
see how its received; sort of like Chevy Chase. His
first guests were Goldie Hawn, Whoopie Goldberg and all these huge
people. Then towards the end of it, all he could get was Billy,
The Wonder Dog. Also guests for us would not necessarily be
great guests for other shows.
Who would you consider to be a great
guest for an audience?
We go for guests that the MTV audience could relate
to. Our audience is somewhere between 18 and 30.
So you wouldnt try to get Charlton Heston?
Believe it or not, Charlton Heston would be a
good guest. In fact, we just had Tony Bennett on. There
are certain people who are not in that age range but who are still
good for the audience.
Whos been your best guest so far?
One of the best shows we had was Bobcat Goldthwait
and White Zombie. Now that same show on another network might not
have the same appeal, but for us it was perfect.
Who are some of the other guests that you thought
Cindy Crawford was wonderful, Dennis Leary was
great, Toni Contain was great
Would you be willing to name some of the worst
guests that youve had on?
Some of the musical acts that weve
had on have been difficult because theyre not that used to
In other words, just buy the album, man.
Exactly. But the other guests sort of know what
the deal is. However, some of the musical guests, you just want
to whisper to them, Do you know people are listening to this?
Does the word entertain mean anything to you?
Larry King says he never prepares for
an interview. He just wings it. How about you?
Larry King said that?
Thats why his show sucks. Thats why
How much preparation do you do before an interview?
I try to give as much preparation as I can.
But theres a lot of other things that I have to worry about.
Theres the comedy on the show to take care of; theres
also the fact that we tape two shows in the course of one day, which
sometimes puts us behind the eight ball. Then theres
the catering. I cook all the food.
You started out as a struggling
comic living in Greenwich Village. What were those days like
No they were great in their own way.
It was a very anxious time. I mean I have anxiety now but
its on a different level. Back then, it was really who
am I and what am I doing? OH MY GOD I HAVE NO FOOD AND IM
GOING TO STARVE TO DEATH!!
How many times did you say to yourself,
Forget this, I quit.
Every night. The first two years it was a constant
battle. I almost quit half way through sets sometimes. Its
really frustrating.I mean until you get your legs, you dont
even know what youre doing. Dont forget, its not
like youre playing the Taj Mahal.Its more like Uncle
Fkers Chuckle Hutch and everybodys hammered.
What was the worst experience you can remember
having on stage?
Once, before I was ready, I opened up for Dave
Mason down at the Sea Port. There must have been a thousand people
there and half way through the set I realized that none of them
were facing me. They were all looking at this naked guy who was
dancing around. At a concert thats far more interesting than
a guy talking about his grandmother.
Is it safe to say that those days are gone
Whats weird about stand-up is that theyre
never gone. Youre constantly being judged.
Do you consider yourself a liberal?
I guess so. I have a tendency to lean toward the
underdog which I assume is the liberal prospective. But as Ive
gotten older, I find Ive developed my own ideology. I dont
really fit into anything.
Entertainment Weekly compared you to Lenny
Bruce. Thats a tough rep to live up to.
Thats only because I do heroin and have
sex with hookers. It has nothing to do with comedy.
Would you have wanted the opportunity
to take over for Letterman at NBC or do you consider that suicide?
Very difficult job, but lets see, would I want
a million dollars? Let me think
Dont you agree that Conan OBrien
is in a no-win situation?
Its hard to feel sorry for anybody who has
their own talk show and is making a million dollars a year.
And be labeled a failure.
I think I face that as well. We all do.
Its a tough gig.
Unless, of course, youre Joe Franklin.
Whose tapes do you think I watched before I put
this thing together. What do you think about that guy?
No, Conan OBrien.
I think that while the money might be
great, hell go down in history as the guy who stuck after
Youre right, I think it would be a very
difficult position to be in.
If it was your last show and you were allowed
on final guest who would it be?
I dont know. Are you busy?
Copyright © 1993 Steppin'
Out. All rights reserved.
Thanks to Dani for the article.
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