"Jon Stewart"
NPR Weekend
October 3, 1998
Host bu Brooke Gladstone


Washington, DC. Brooke speaks with humorist Jon Stewart, author of a new book titled " Naked Pictures of Famous People." (William Morrow & Co., Inc.)

BROOKE GLADSTONE, HOST: Jon Stewart is a comedian who's been teetering on the brink of success for about three years now.


He had a talk-show on MTV. It was briefly syndicated. David Letterman's Worldwide Pants (ph) signed him to do a show following Tom Snyder's "Late Late Show" on CBS. That didn't pan out. Instead, Stewart guest-hosted Snyder's show, amid speculation that he would eventually take it over. At the same time, he played a fictional character who was guest- hosting the fictional "Larry Sanders Show" on HBO, amid speculation that he would eventually take it over. That didn't pan out either. But, finally, things are panning out, and Mr. Stewart is in our New York bureau. Hey, it looks like you have a real job.



That thing with Bennigan's came through?


Oohoo! I'm a night-manager again.


GLADSTONE: Tell me about Comedy Central.

STEWART: The Comedy Central gig is the daily show, a fine and satirical look at the way the media has turned the country upside- down. It starts in January. I'll be taking over for Mr. Kilborne at that point.

GLADSTONE: And at that point Kilborne will be going over to the "Tom Snyder Show,"...


GLADSTONE: ... where you were for a while heir-apparent. What happened there?

STEWART: Kilborne will be going to Snyder, Snyder will be taking over for Rosie, Rosie will be hosting "Hollywood Squares," and Tom Bergeron (ph)...


... will be -- musical chairs, in many respects.


GLADSTONE: So, why on earth would you want to be a talk-show host?

STEWART: I really am interested in what Tia and Tamara Maury (ph) think about, and what goes into the making of "Sister, Sister."


And I think until I can find that out, I'm just going to have to interview everyone else, until I can get to that.

GLADSTONE: Which brings us to your new book of essays, called "Naked Pictures of Famous People: Another Example of Blatantly False Advertising."

STEWART: Well, that's the most down-loaded phrase, I think, on the Internet, the most searched-for phrase. So I figure if you want your porn backdoor action, you're going to also have to deal with my book.


GLADSTONE: How long did it take you to write the book?

STEWART: Like a day. That much.


Which I mean -- it took me about eight months.

GLADSTONE: Well, there's no naked pictures in the book, but there are a lot of famous people who are all viciously sent up.

STEWART: Hey! All with love...

GLADSTONE: Ranging...

STEWART: All with respect.

GLADSTONE: You kid. You kid, because...

STEWART: (Unintelligible)

GLADSTONE: ... you love.

STEWART: I kid because I love.

GLADSTONE: The characters range from Martha Stewart to Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci to Lenny Bruce (ph),...


GLADSTONE: JFK is shown as a sadistic, inbred anti-Semite...

STEWART: But in a positive -- he's funny.


That's -- boy, that's right!

You know, I hadn't strung all the adjectives together. When you put it that way, I think,...


... oh my God, I'm a bastard!


GLADSTONE: Gerald Ford is portrayed as a kind of lobotomized Pee Wee Herman.


So the question is -- the question that leaps to mind is, are you trying to be offensive, or are you...?

STEWART: Oh, God no!

GLADSTONE: Then you're mentally ill.

STEWART: No! No! I'm trying to be funny. Hopefully, you don't take the book as just a slam on these people. It's really -- I'm using them as absurd examples of the kinds of situations I'm talking about. But I'm not really slamming these people in particular.


STEWART: I don't think it's a mean -- I feel like it's not a mean book. I don't feel like I'm a mean person.


So when -- you know, when...


So John F. Kennedy stands by while...

STEWART: Wait a minute, my cynical friend.

GLADSTONE: John F. Kennedy stands by while his Choate roommate is literally amputated by his inbred and deformed cousins, and...


STEWART: It's absurd! Who would believe that there's a bunker underneath Hyannis Port filled with miscreants and carney-rejects that are genetically related to the Kennedys? It's absurd!


It's a joke!

GLADSTONE: One of my favorite sections is your comparative chart of orthodox, conservative, and reform Judaism.

STEWART: Yes, that was years of study.


Now, you have under "favorite ballplayer," the orthodox say, "Hank Greenberg,"...

STEWART: Absolutely!

GLADSTONE: ... the conservatives say, "Sandy Koufax,"...


GLADSTONE: ... and for reform it's Ken Griffey, Jr.


STEWART: Yes. Yes, it is.

GLADSTONE: And on the matter of homosexuality,...


GLADSTONE: ... the orthodox say it's a sin,...

STEWART: Yes, they do.

GLADSTONE: ... the conservatives say it's a sin, but oh, what they've done for Broadway theater!

STEWART: Yes, that's true.

GLADSTONE: And the reformed call it "something that happened at camp."



See, that's funny.

GLADSTONE: The funny thing is that when I saw you on Larry Sanders,...


GLADSTONE: ... I never would have guessed you were Jewish.

STEWART: You've got to be kidding me.


My God! They had a nostril-cam hooked up on that show.


Never been to Brooklyn, my friend.

GLADSTONE: I live in Brooklyn.

STEWART: Is that true?



STEWART: You live in Brooklyn, and I don't look Jewish?

GLADSTONE: What about the business that I started with, fame?


GLADSTONE: Has this been a fun ride for you, or has it been frustrating, or both?

STEWART: Oh, I think fun. You know, somebody asked me the other day -- they said, "Do you feel like you've done anything great?" I said, "No." And then I thought, "No, I have," and the one thing I did that was great was I moved from Trenton, New Jersey to New York, to try and become a comedian. That's the one thing I've done in this business that's great. Because I gave myself the opportunity to express whatever it was that I thought I needed to express.

GLADSTONE: And you're from Jersey?


From Jersey.

GLADSTONE: From Trenton?


GLADSTONE: Trenton makes, the world takes.

STEWART: Don't start slamming it!


Let me tell you something. You ever drank Champale? Or seen Trojan rubbers? If you do...

GLADSTONE: I sure -- I sure have seen Trojan rubbers.

STEWART: Exactly! There you go! Well, there -- your weekend is sponsored by Trenton.

We used to make steel, but now we just make weekends.


I'm just kidding.

GLADSTONE: Actually, the funniest essay in this book involves a talk-show host, Larry King, up close and personal with Adolf Hitler.


GLADSTONE: Now, we actually asked Larry King to read the Larry King part, but for some reason he said no.

STEWART: Yes. He can't read.


No, he's a very nice man. I actually met him, and he's a -- actually a
pretty interesting and funny guy.

GLADSTONE: We asked Mike O'Meara (ph), who is the cohost of the syndicated "Don and Mike Show," to play Larry King, which he's very happy to do. You play Hitler, and here we go!

MIKE O'MEARA, PORTRAYING LARRY KING: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Tonight we bring you perhaps the most controversial show in the history of "Larry King Live."

He began his career as president of the fledgling National Socialist Party, the Nazi Party, in Germany. After a failed coup, some prison time, and a best-selling book, he reestablished himself in the German hierarchy, first as chancellor, and then as Fuehrer. The next ten years under his watch saw Germany's return to power, shame at the Munich Olympics, a failed marriage,
and finally, one hell of a world war, complete with what was thought to be a cowardly demise by his own hand.

Tonight, risen from the proverbial dead, we welcome Adolf Hitler.

STEWART, PORTRAYING HITLER: First of all, Larry, I don't know what I was so afraid of. These bagels in the green room are delicious.

O'MEARA: Heh! Well, Chancellor Hitler, I have really...

STEWART: Please, call me "Adolf."

O'MEARA: Adolf, yes, well, first of all, I have to say quite frankly, we were very reluctant to have you on.

STEWART: Well, I can't say I blame you for that. I mean, you hear the name "Hitler," and it's...

O'MEARA: Well, in the end we decided this show is about news- makers. That's been my motto through 40 years of broadcasting, and critics be damned! I'm not about to stop now.

STEWART: I don't know what you're talking about.

O'MEARA: What do you say to all those people out there, the people who view you as a demon, the perpetrator of the most vicious and...

STEWART: Guilty as charged.

Larry, look. I was a bad guy. No question!

I hate that Hitler. I mean, the yelling, the finger-pointing. I don't know. I was a very angry guy.

O'MEARA: And this new Hitler?

STEWART: I get up at seven, have half a melon, do the jumble in the morning paper, and then let the day take me where it will.

The other day, I spent seven hours in the park, watching ants cut off part of a sandwich. Me! The inventor of the Blitzkrieg.

Now, when you stop having to control everything, it's very freeing.

O'MEARA: Hmmm!

Why did you do it?

STEWART: Oh boy! The $64-thousand question, huh?

I wasn't a happy kid.

I mean, I'm not trying to make excuses, but you go through high school with one testicle and the nickname "Shitler," I'm sorry, they can bleep that, right?

O'MEARA: Did you ever see the despicable nature of your actions? Was there any remorse?

STEWART: Ah, sure, but denial is a powerful thing. I always thought I could stop, any time I wanted. If I could just get Czechoslovakia, that'll be the end of it, I'll be happy then.

And I'd get it and think, "Well, geeze, Poland's just up the road a piece," and you know the rest. I think admitting to myself that there was a problem was the toughest part.

O'MEARA: And when was that?

STEWART: I mean, there were moments all along where I knew something was wrong. I remember one time -- I think it was in Munich -- we're having a rally, 100,000 people, they're all chanting my name, the bonfires are going, it's the whole shebang. It should have been a crowning moment, but I clearly remember thinking, "What am I doing here? I hate crowds."

O'MEARA: Tell us about those final days, in the Berlin bunker, where until now we had assumed you had killed yourself.

STEWART: Hmmm! Yes, right, well, I finished that. Everyone thought I went into the bunker to escape.

O'MEARA: Not the case?

STEWART: No. Actually, as the allied forces are closing in, I was still in denial. I really thought we were going to rally, you know, make an end-run around Switzerland and frank 'em. So I'm planning furiously and snapping at people -- you know, as my therapist says, "playing the dictator."


STEWART: So Eva calls me down to the bunker for some emergency with the generals.

So anyway I go down, and there's Eva, and Himmler, and two of my other closest friends. And I'll never forget. I walk in, and say, "Was ist los?"

And Eva takes my face in her hands, looks me in the eyes, and says, "Adolf, we all love you very much, but if you don't stop with this conquer-and-purify thing, no one in this room will ever love you again."

O'MEARA: What happened?

STEWART: I shot them.

I mean, back then we didn't know from interventions. I just figured they were betraying me.

Anyway, I threw on Eva's clothes and snuck out into the night. I lived like an animal for weeks, doing what I had to do to get by.
One day, a group of boys were making fun of the lady with the moustache, and I got a look at myself in the reflection of a window, and realized they were talking about me. It was then that I knew I had to get my life together.

O'MEARA: Interesting!

Now, let's go to the phones, OK?

Annie from Grand Rapids, Michigan, what's your question for Adolf Hitler?

ANNIE: First of all, Larry, I just want to say, I love your show.

O'MEARA: Thank you.

ANNIE: My husband was recently diagnosed with shingles, and your show is the
only one that takes away the itching.

O'MEARA: Well, wonderful, Annie! Thank you.

What's your question for Hitler?

ANNIE: Yes. I want to know what Mr. Hitler thinks of cloning.

O'MEARA: Terrific question!

Was the Third Reich working on cloning?

STEWART: Sure, sure, I -- we gave it a shot. I mean, we had created some chickens that vaguely resembled each other, and one of our top guys had cloned a replica of your heroic dog Lassie, but after some checking, we found out it was just a reassembled corgie. All involved were put to sleep.

Our guys just were not up to the task.

O'MEARA: After all these years, why resurface and open yourself up to the incredible tumult that your return has created?

STEWART: Stay off the radar.

No, that's a good question.

See, I had been talking a good game for many years now, what a changed man I was, how I'd found real peace, but I was still playing the blame game. My therapist challenged me to put up or shut up, to prove to myself that I could take responsibility for my life. So, here I am.

O'MEARA: We've been talking with Adolf Hitler. The book is...

STEWART: The pot -- is -- is it over already?

O'MEARA: I'm afraid so.

STEWART: That was -- that was fast! I thought I was the one who had ways of making you talk.


But seriously, I -- the book is called "Mein Comfortable Shoes." You get it?

O'MEARA: I do!

STEWART: Yes, yes, it's about an angry man who learns to appreciate the little things in life. It's about acceptance.

O'MEARA: And what's next for Adolf Hitler?

STEWART: Well, I'll he doing "Politically Incorrect" next Thursday. And there's always -- you can see my old work on the A&E network. And in two weeks I will be appearing on Court TV as I stand trial for crimes against humanity.

O'MEARA: What kind of defense will you be offering?

STEWART: Not much. I fully expect that by this time next year, I'll have been convicted, possibly put to death. But I'm going to represent myself, though, because from now on, the blame goes here. The only one to blame for Hitler is Hitler.

And besides, who wants to get involved with a bunch of phoney- baloney defense lawyers? I mean, talk about evil!


O'MEARA: Well, Adolf, thanks so much for coming by.

STEWART: Ah, danke schoen.

GLADSTONE: I think that's all we need to say.

The once and future Jon Stewart is the upcoming host of the "Daley Show" (ph) on the Comedy Central cable channel. That starts in January, and he's author of "Naked Pictures of Famous People."

He joined us from the New York bureau. Bye bye.

STEWART: Thank you. Bye bye.



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Thanks to Melly for the transcript.

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