It's a mad,
mad, mad, mad world. And frankly, that suits Jon Stewart just
his job has been to report the news of the day from a skewed point
of view. The crazier that world events become, the easier his
gig as anchorman of The Daily Show With Jon Stewart is.
No need to
fabricate absurd but phony news stories, he says, when so many
bona fide stories are weird around the edges or, in some cases,
weird all the way down the bone.
has gotten to a point where it's almost so unbelievable that it
appears you're making it up," says Stewart, who's starring
on the big screen in Playing By Heart. "I'm very confident
that the world will provide us with a great amount of fodder in
terms of the skewed truth, especially now that we approach the
I'm not hoping for the apes and the monolith. I'm hoping for controlled
chaos to assist us."
Show is Comedy Central's nightly news program, which brilliantly
balances mockery of news makers (particularly those who make asses
of themselves) with parody of TV news givers (from prime-time
magazine shows like Dateline to 24-hour news networks).
me, that's where a lot of satire lies," Stewart says of the
TV news industry. "News used to hold itself to a higher plane
and slowly it has dissolved into, well, me.
that guy who got gored by a bull and the bull pulled his underwear
off and he had to run around the ring naked? If that footage comes
out, I'll run that."
And the sad
fact is that many legitimate news programs will show the same
film. That's what makes "The Daily Show" so on target.
It is at times difficult to separate the glib parody from the
at MSNBC," Stewart jokes. "I actually heard that they
gave Monica Lewinsky's dress its own show."
it must seem to Stewart that the news media is wearing a giant
bull's-eye, just begging to be fired upon. In recent months, for
example, CNN took its lumps over the "Tailwind" debacle,
60 Minutes apologized after being duped into airing a bogus
investigative piece and NBC ran a bottom-of-the-screen crawler
that greatly exaggerated details of the still-living Joe DiMaggio's
show almost doesn't do it justice," Stewart says. "There
is so much material out there. The 24-hour news networks are talking
about news analysis when they have no vested interest in news.
They have vested interest in fanning the flames of conflict because
that's what gets them ratings. That's what keeps them on the air.
they must be saying, `Thank God for Monica Lewinsky.' Because
otherwise MSNBC would have Brian Williams and a slow flatline
on the EKG. When O.J. went away, they had something to fill the
over as The Daily Show anchor because former host Craig
Kilborn inherited Tom Snyder's Late Late Show at CBS. Kilborn
signs on the week of March 29.
36, a former stand-up comedian who first got attention as host
of a youth-skewing MTV talk show, has been perceived by many as
being "softer" than Kilborn, not as arch when it comes
poking fun at newsmakers and public people.
I don't know about a softer side," he says. "I do have
a feminine side. As you've been talking to me, I've been making
an afghan with the producers. But if you saw the HBO special that
I did, I think my Pat Buchanan butt****ing jokes speak for themselves."
idea of an effective "Daily Show" spin on a news story
would be to have a porn star read passages of the Ken Starr report
or to have a dry cleaner appear as a pundit to discuss the Lewinsky
the main thing I don't want to be is un-funny," he says.
"That's really the mandate. Just whatever we're doing, make
it as funny as we can possibly make it. And believe me, if the
show starts going down, we'll introduce a baby. We'll do everything
that they did on `Family Ties.' I'm not afraid of that."
For the time
being, though, the format, carefully honed since its debut in
the fall of 1996, has undergone relatively few changes. The show's
trademark "Five Questions" interviews with celebrity
guests are gone, although the interview segments remain. And many
familiar faces, including correspondents Beth Littleford and Stephen
Colbert, remain alongside some new personnel.
did you ever hear of a little man named Bryant Gumbel?" Stewart
adds, his pants on fire. "That's right. He's back."
Show gig is merely the capper of a busy year for Stewart.
Earlier, he was Larry Sanders' rumored successor during
the final season of The Larry Sanders Show, all of which
was purely fiction.
first book, Naked Pictures of Famous People, a collection
of Woody Allen-esque writings, was published in November. And
he had decent-size parts in two feature films, December's The
Faculty and the current Playing by Heart.
happened was everything that I've been working on for the past
year and a half all came out the same weekend," he says.
"So now I'm talking about all the things that happened a
year and a half ago, much how Charlie Sheen must feel all the
behind the news desk of The Daily Show, that's what he
is truly passionate about these days.
always anxiety when you start a new job," he says, "that
you're the one guy who doesn't know where the ketchup is."
But no matter
what surprises come his way in this new adventure, there is one
nugget of wisdom he says he will never lose sight of.
cross Lorenzo Lamas. Ever."