Leno and Letterman may be posting bigger late-night
ratings, but for Generation. X-ers the talk show host de la nuit
is a hip, flip 31-year-old stand-up comic named on Stewart. MTV's
The Jon Stewart Show, running thrice daily Monday through
Thursday, relies on fast cuts, cutting-edge music and its host's
cheekiness: he has his guests sit in old car seats and once startled
Star Trekker William Shatner by plopping himself into Captain Kirk's
lap. Recently, Stewart hunkered with writer-reporter Maria Speidel
in the small, dark bachelor pad he shares with two cats in Manhattan's
Maria: Tell us, why did you want
to do a talk show?
Jon: I thought it hadn't been done. Later I found out,
jeez, there are like 20 of 'em.
Maria: Are you having fun?
Jon: The other day, we had Cindy Crawford and Tony
Bennett on--and I was standing next to them. Normally that would
be the snapshot right before the police wrestle me to the ground.
Maria: Were you always funny?
Jon: I was the wise guy in the family. I was very little,
so being funny helped me have big friends. When I was a kid, I used
to do impressions of Nelson Rockefeller. And Mr. Rogers. There's
a dark secret behind that cardigan.
Maria: Why did you change your last
name from Leibowitz?
Jon: I use my middle name to protect my loved ones.
My family had a petition and I had to acquiesce.
Maria: Tell us about growing up in
Jon: It was a magical little fishing village. My father
owned a schooner.
Maria: In fact, your father, Donald,
is a physicist and your mother, Marion, an educational consultant.
After they divorced with whom did you and your older brother Larry
Jon: My mother. Which is probably why I'm sitting here
knitting as I'm talking to you. Instead of just being out shellacking
Maria: You attended William and Mary
College in Virginia.
Jon: Yeah. I went there to play soccer. I was miserable
there. It was a really stiff place. I majored in psychology.
Maria: What did you do after college?
Jon: I certainly didn't want to be a psychologist.
I'd had my share of training rats. I moved back home, and I was
just lost. I ended up bartending at a beer-and-shot joint in New
Jersey. It was me and a bunch of Vietnam veterans. They're probably
still waiting for me to show up for work.
Maria: Why did you decide not to?
Jon: I wanted to do something with my life. 'Cause
I was sitting around. I ended up drinking way too much and partying
way too much. So in 1986 I moved to New York City and went to work
driving the van for a caterer.
Maria: When did you get the courage
to go onstage?
Jon: In 1987, I went to the Bitter End in the Village,
because Woody Allen and Bill Cosby started there. I went on about
1 in the morning and was terrible and was yanked after five minutes.
But I just kept plugging away. I knew I was really in show business
when I opened for Sheena Easton at Caesars Palace. The marquee said
"Sheena Easton" in big letters. Then if you got up really close
you saw my name.
Maria: Name one of your dream guests.
Jon: Helena Bonham Carter. She's adorable. I'm waiting
for her to get fed up with this whole English accent thing and come
home to Papa.
Maria: How's your love life, Jon?
Jon: Well, this is a song called "Jon's Love Life"
and it goes like this.... It's suffered. I was going out with a
girl for a long time and we lived together. We split up, but not
the cats. We thought that would be cruel, so they stayed with me.
But we still keep in touch.
Maria: Has the show brought you a
lot of recognition on the street?
Jon: This has been like nothing I've ever done, except
for a few episodes of America's Most Wanted.
Maria: What's next for you?
Jon: Have you seen my calendar? We shot it on an island
in Greece. It really expresses who I am. A lot of spandex. November
is particularly astounding.
Copyright © 1994 People. All
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