Stewart mocks others in his writing. He stars in movies about
alien teachers. He hosts The Daily Show even though he's
only 5'8". But you know what? We like him anyway.
and a half years ago, during the summer of 1995 -- just before
everybody and Jenny Jones's mother gets a talk show. Gap-toothed
David Letterman appears on the syndicated, lowly rated The
Jon Stewart Show. With the axe about to fall on Stewart's
wonderfully freaky nighttime talk show, Letterman can't help but
make light of Stewart's predicament. "If I screw this up, this
is your last show," he says, feigning concern, before plunging
the knife even deeper: "And this is all you'll think about until
you work again." To which Stewart, master of self-deprecating
wit, replies, "See ya in '98, I would guess."
was right; the show was canceled soon after. And unless you have
HBO and watched the dearly departed Larry Sanders religiously,
you're forgiven for assuming that following the demise of his
show, Stewart passed on to the great comic gig in the sky. Or
at least faded to an obscurity level with which only Andrew Dice
Clay was previously familiar.
But as it
turns out, Stewart's the comedian with prescience, as 1998 signified
his return to the world outside of paid cable. And with Stewart
seemingly everywhere these days, the Chinese might want to mark
1999 "The Year of the Stewart."
been -- or I should say, fortunately been -- a pretty hectic year,"
says the 36-year-old, New Jersey native, sounding just a tad ambivalent
about all his hard work. But that diligence has made possible
his newfound ubiquity, which all started with the September 1998
release of his collection of essays, Naked Pictures of Famous
People. Naked Pictures, which did some time on The
New York Times bestseller list, is not your typical comedian's
book -- think Jerry Seinfeld or Ellen DeGeneres ruminating on
life's minutiae to the point of irrelevance ("You ever wonder
why...?"). Instead, Stewart has crafted a surreal mix of cult
of celebrity satires that ask: What if Adolf Hitler never died,
and instead sought therapy, followed up Mein Kampf with Mein Comfortable
Shoes and hawked the book on Larry King Live?. And what
if Martha Stewart took as much time decorating her vagina as she
did constructing a buffet steam table from lemon rinds and old
to go back to writing the kind of book that I liked when I was
younger," Stewart explains, "which was the Woody Allen-Steve Martin-type
, Stewart was inspired by Allen's flair for Jewish paranoia, not
to mention Mr. Neurotic's ability to pass his insecurities off
as funny instead of pathetic. And while Stewart hasn't reached
the Allen-Martin pantheon just yet -- he does have Half-Baked
to answer for -- he is certainly displaying the versatility that
all comedians need if they are to graduate from the grinding stand-up
circuit. His burgeoning film career boasts two current movies
(and a few in development) -- the just-released drama Playing
by Heart, in which Stewart romances Gillian Anderson, and
(ho-hum) yet another Kevin Williamson-penned horror-comedy,
the in-line to all the kids, " Stewart jokes, referring to the
creator of such hey-look-kids-are-self-aware-and-appreciate-irony-too
hits as the Scream series and TV's Dawson's Creek.
anti-irony, per se, but it's not likely to get worked into his
act like some hack onstage winking about his love for the '70s.
just hold up a Brady Bunch lunchbox," he says, imagining
himself as said hack: "'You see? Funny! Huh? Come on people. Remember
this?' You've got to provide a joke that goes along with the irony,
but I've never considered myself a master of irony."
Even as he
branches out to the big screen, Stewart is first and foremost
a funny guy. He recently took over the host duties on Comedy Central's
The Daily Show. With his ultra-busy schedule, Stewart had
less than a week to meet with writers to prepare for his debut
as the show's host on January 11.
Jesus Christ! I won't even have my pants hemmed by that point,"
he says, referring to the pants -- and shoes -- he's filling,
those of the tall, big-footed and smarmy Craig Kilborn. His 1999
calendar already full, Stewart insists he doesn't worry about
Central?" he asks, mostly bewildered, with a touch of that trademark
self-deprecation. "Are we talking about the same gig?
"I guess you
worry about it to a certain extent," he continues, "but I ain't
Madonna. Next year, I'm not going to have to reinvent myself as
a sex kitten. Although, no -- " Stewart catches himself. Maybe
he's biting his tongue because he wants the Spiritual Girl to
appear on a future Daily Show. Either that or Stewart's
keeping mum about his big move for 2000 -- his very own Sex
book. You know, Naked Pictures of Famous Comics.