"Nice guy finishes first"
September 28, 1998
by Rick Marin


With two movies, The Daily Show and a new book, comic Jon Stewart is a bridesmaid no more.

Poor Jon Stewart: the almost host. He loses the NBC Late Night bake-off to Conan O'Brien. His own syndicated talk show gets canceled before they finish painting the green room. Then, just when it looked like he might take over the Tom Snyder slot, CBS hires Comedy Central's Craig Kilborn. Ever the bridesmaid, Stewart, 35, even played Garry Shandling's rumored replacement on The Larry Sanders Show. 

But this wry, self-deprecating comic's days in the wings are numbered. In January, he'll take over Kilborn's satirical nightly Newscast, The Daily Show, for a cool $1.5 million a year. He landed decent-size parts in two hip movies coming out at Christmas, The Faculty and Dancing About Architecture. And this week, his first book comes out: Naked Pictures of Famous People (163 pages. Rob Weisbach Books. $24), an absurdist borscht whose ingredients include Hitler on Larry King and a Lenny Bruce sitcom. Newsweek's Rick Marin asked if Stewart's finally gotten the last laugh. Not if he can help it.

Were you bummed when CBS gave Kllborn the Snyder slot?

Nah. The spot following Letterman on NBC -- I was bummed about that. There were eight of us at a club and we all went up and did 10 minutes in front of Lorne Michaels. Paul Provenza, Drew Carey, Conan ... About two minutes in, I knew I wasn't going to get it.


I remember Lorne standing up and going, "Thank you."

So you handle rejection well.

The disasters build a sort of odd Diacid feeling. When my syndicated show got canceled, the next day I still knew how to write jokes. That was a huge revelation. Because at first you think, "I won't have any shelter! What am I gonna do? The sun is hot. Very thirsty."

You called your book a lousy Without Feathers, referring to Woody Allen's humor classic.

From his movies to his books to his personal life, Woody has been my idol.

How will your style change The Daily Show?

Hopefully it won't be defined by my neuroses but the targets we go after and the attitude.

You're nicer.

But I have a lot of hostility.


The news media. I have more trouble with the commentary on Clinton's affair than Clinton's affair. The self-righteousness is embarrassing. Maybe it reflects poorly on my upbringing, but we had interns running around my house since I was a kid. [He vents conventional frustration with party politics.] Here's the other thing: everything I'm saying is completely trite. If I were doing the show today, I'd have porn stars come on and read the Starr Report.

What else?

Take it out of the celebrity realm. Bring on a White House intern, a dry cleaner. The currency of talk shows is celebs, but there are so many they've been devalued, much like the ruble.

What are you doing between now and when the show starts?

Prayer. I have breakfast every morning with my ministers. They try and keep me from temptation. Jesse Jackson comes over and says, "Don't have the ham."


<< back

Copyright © 1998 Newsweek. All rights reserved.

main - pictures - transcripts - multimedia - desktop - links