"Prairie Miller interview with Jon Stewart"
Prairie Miller Star Interviews
March 8, 1999
by Prairie Miller

 

It takes the hilarious comic talent of Jon Stewart to uniquely turn a press interview like the one below into a parody of an interview! And I'm still wondering exactly how he did that. The fact that he plays a hugely unappreciated perfect date (opposite X-Files' Gillian Anderson) and seriously nice guy in Willard Carroll's Playing By Heart doesn't slow down Stewart's mile a minute humor one bit.

The thirty six year old comic who's also hosting The Daily Show on Comedy Central, had plenty of punch lines to relate about Playing By Heart and it's all star cast. That stellar roll call includes Sean Connery, Gena Rowlands, Dennis Quaid, Madeline Stowe, Jay Mohr, Ellen Burstyn, Angelina Jolie, Ryan Phillipe, and the list goes on and on.

PRAIRIE MILLER: It looks like you've been real busy today with the press. So are you in the mood for another interview?

JON STEWART: What the heck!

PM: Well, what grabbed you about Playing By Heart?

JS: The idea that they would let me do it!

PM: Oh?

JS: Yeah, I'm very particular in that way! Oh yeah. I won't do any film they won't let me do. As you've noticed in many of the films that have come out. You know, that I'm not in. Yeah.

PM: How about this movie, the one you are in.

JS: Well, I didn't find out about it. They were already shooting the film when I was cast. It was one of those things where somebody must have dropped out. Or they got a case of food poisoning, or something. So they sent me the script and said, do you want to run in and audition for this? I did, and the next thing I knew...It was sort of like winning a contest

PM: You mean you think you got the role by default?

JS: Most likely. That's what I'm assuming.

PM: But you didn't ask.

JS: No, no, no. I never ask. But there was always that sense. For instance, my name tag on the trailer was the only one was that written in masking tape. So just in case if somebody else came along, they could rip it off and put somebody else's name tag right on it. So...

PM: This role is a big change for you.

JS: Yeah. Most people are obviously used to seeing me in musical theater. As the calico cat.

PM: Well did that create an identity crisis for you?

JS: No. For God's sakes, I'm very adept at realizing the difference between reality and show business. There is a
difference, right? Whew!

PM: I'm beginning to think not, what with Clinton and everything.

JS: Yeah, that's a good point.

PM: What was it like working with an intimidating kind of guy like Sean Connery?

JS: There was a lot of bad blood. You know, it's sort of like two dominant males in the same place. So there's a lot of banging heads, but we sort of marked our own territory and stayed away from each other.

No, actually he was a very sweet guy. We only really worked together once, but he couldn't have been nicer or more charming. I actually was a bit intimidated just in terms of his presence. I think the only things I said to him were, nice to meet you. And, is that your donut? Because I thought it might have been mine. But other than that he couldn't have been nicer. I just enjoyed being around him. He's a very lively guy. And it was a pleasure to watch him working.

PM: So do you have any other interesting war stories from the set?

JS: The first time I did meet Sean, I was working with a one hundred eighty five pound mastiff that was my partner in the movie, other than Gillian. And right before I was supposed to do a rehearsal of the scene with Sean Connery, the mastiff decided there was something very interesting and smelly in my crotch. So he jammed his face in there, and those dogs drool quite a bit.

So when he removed his face - I encouraged him to - he left a slug trail of drool across my crotch. So I had to walk across the yard to meet Sean Connery, with what appeared to be extremely wet pants. But Sean was very polite about it and made no mention.

PM: Was Sean staring a lot?

JS: I believe there was a glance down. I don't know if it was at the drool, or if he was just checking out, as I said, the other dominant male. But I believe it was the drool. It was hard to miss. I mean, it looked like a Jackson Pollack painting of drool on my crotch. So...

PM: Ugh!

JS: Yeah, kind of disturbing.

PM: I would think so. Are you anything like your character in Playing By Heart?

JS: Hmm. Same height. But other than that it's pretty much of a departure.. My personality is not quite as nice as that.

PM: Hey, where were you and what were you doing when you found out you were so funny?

JS: You know what? I don't have that moment of epiphany. But I think I always knew I was a wise guy, because especially growing up, it got me in a lot of trouble. I do remember being a kid who did Nelson Rockefeller impressions, or something ridiculous like that. So I don't know if I was ever considered funny, but I definitely did have an obnoxious tint to my personality. I was voted "Best Sense Of Humor" in high school. That's about the only
accreditation I have as far as being funny. You'll just have to just take my word for it.

PM: And how did you find yourself suddenly being a comic?

JS: I graduated college and was bartending in a couple of places and thought, okay. I can either do this forever, join the softball team, get married, or I can see if I can do what I really want to do. So I moved to New York in 1986, and in 1987 I just started doing comedy, and tried to get on stage and do as much as I could. Yeah. I have no great discovery stories. It was just a series of a lot of work over a period of time.

PM: Is it true what they say about comics, that they're really depressed?

JS: No. Comics are for the most part as much fun as a barrel of monkeys. Not a drop of sadness in the bunch. It's a character we play for the public. But when we're all together, it's like a birthday party. Comics are the most supportive, healthy un-neurotic people that I think I've ever met...Wait. That's not comics, that's lawyers! I'm sorry, did you say comics? Oh yeah, yeah. We're a mess.

But no. Actually, you know what? Some of the most interesting, smartest nicest people that I've ever met are comics.

PM: What's the secret thrill of being a comic?

JS: Uh...Free booze at the clubs. Usually. Sometimes they'll make you pay, it depends on the crowd. No, I think it's the independence. The idea that it's most like sports of anything I've ever done in the real world, other than sports. It's a competition. It's gladiatorial in nature, to a certain extent. And you've got no one to blame but yourself. Like sports.

PM: And you don't get fed to the lions at the end.

JS: You don't get eaten at the end. Exactly.

PM: I hear you're shooting Big Daddy right now.

JS: Not right now. Tomorrow.

PM: You co-star with Adam Sandler in Big Daddy. What's it like working with Adam Sandler?

JS: Oh, it's terrific. He's hilarious. You know, he's a guy I've known for a lot of years from doing standup in New York. And he's hilarious.

PM: Now even as we speak, Sandler has suddenly been thrust into the position of the number one comic on the planet. with The Waterboy. So how is he taking it?

JS: I don't know. You're not allowed to talk to him anymore. So I'm not quite sure. There's a team of what looks to be Secret Service around him. So...

No, he's the exact same. I saw him the next morning all that happened with The Waterboy, and he was giggling. He was very happy, but very much the same as he was the week before. He's still the same guy in terms of being funny and original, that sort of thing. He's sticking to his guns and doing what got him there, what he thinks is funny. I think what really makes him so successful is that he's staying to what he knows. He hasn't changed it, he's just kept growing and making it better. So yeah, it was good. It's nice when nice happens.

PM: What were your first gigs like when you got to Hollywood?

JS: I never got to Hollywood, I got to Bleecker Street. My first gig ever was at The Bitter End on Bleecker Street. You get the whole story, you know, that Woody Allen was here and Bill Cosby was here. But believe me, they were long gone by the time I showed up! So it was a slow ride. That was in April or May of 1987.

 

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