a good hard-luck story. Jon Stewart, it shouldn't surprise you,
is no exception. He's telling
one about his first day on the job at the Quaker Bridge Mall outside
Trenton. All he was doing was trying to make his co-workers laugh
when he dove head first into a bean bag chair. Somehow, young
Jon misjudged the plunge and went crashing into a wall of aquariums.
dead fish and $10,000 worth of aquarium equipment later, Stewart
was fired by, of all people, his own brother. "He caught
me trying to dump the fish into the incinerator," recalls
Stewart. "He axed me on the spot. Thankfully, the Quaker
Bridge Mall is like O'Hare Airport [in Chicago]. There's a hub
and many, many terminals. You can be fired from every wing of
the mall, and still keep going."
handsome as he sips coffee in his Beverly Hills hotel suite, Stewart,
36, revels in telling stories that cast him as one of life's underdogs.
He has a handful of job-from-hell anecdotes at the ready, including
one that involves him being fired from a bakery for getting soap
mixed up with flour.
is this guy that he'd even rather talk about The First Wives
Club, a movie he was cut out of, than the film career that
Hollywood seems to have in store for him.
when I saw a screening of First Wives Club,'I went, `You
should take that guy out of there! Oops, that guy is me.'"
he deadpans. "The truth of the matter is that all you can
do is show up on the set, be as funny as you can be, trust the
people around you, and hope it works out. And then you go home
and write your own stuff."
Up until now,
Stewart hasn't exactly been a slacker. In fact, he was once dubbed
"the celebrity equivalent of lint" for his ability to
pop up all over the place.
At the moment,
he's is the host of the popular Comedy Central program The
Daily Show. He's starring as Adam Sandler's best bud in Big
Daddy, which opens Friday in area theaters. He's the author
of Naked Pictures of Famous People, a book full of humorous
musings. Before that, there was his TV talk show on Fox, which
allowed him to realize his dream of sitting on William Shatner's
lap. There was Stewart's many guest appearances on HBO's The
Larry Sanders Show. And in September, there's a possible concert
The last thing
on Stewart's mind, it turns out, is movies.
I do a movie about once every 35 years," says the comic,
who resides in Manhattan's West Village. "I've had a lot
of them come out the last couple of months but I did those in
bulk. It's like shopping for 800 pounds of grain and then never
going back to the store again."
To date, Stewart
has a few secondary movie roles to his credit, including turns
as a teacher in The Faculty and as Gillian Anderson's main
squeeze in Playing By Heart. But this week, Stewart hits
the mainstream with Big Daddy, which was written and directed
by the same team responsible for previous Sandler hits such as
Happy Gilmore, Billy Madison, and The Waterboy.
In the comedy,
Stewart plays a businessman who doesn't have a clue he fathered
a child five years earlier. When he's out of town, the youngster
shows up on his doorstep and Sandler has to take care of him until
Stewart returns, which is not as easy at it sounds.
Sandler go back a long way. They both started out at the same
time, honing their stand-up acts in New York comedy clubs. "I
always used to try to borrow money from Adam when he was making
$15 a night," recalls Stewart. "He was a soft touch.
Of course, now we have very little contact. Have you ever tried
to have a conversation with someone who's being carried on a litter?"
It was, in
fact, Sandler who suggested Stewart for the role in Big Daddy,
which also stars Joey Lauren Adams (Chasing Amy), Leslie
Mann (The Cable Guy), Rob Schneider (Saturday Night
Live), and Cole and Dylan Sprouse (as the youngster).
ways, Jon has the trickiest part in the movie," says director
Dennis Dugan. "He's in the first 12 minutes of the film and
in that short amount of time, he has to make enough of an impression
on the audience so that when he returns at the end, they'll go,
`I'm so happy that this guy came back!' And Jon achieved that.
What he did with the role was remarkable."
believe Stewart belongs in movies, but the comedian prefers his
hosting duties on The Daily Show. Since taking over for
the CBS-bound emcee Craig Kilborn in January, Stewart has received
almost unanimous praise for his revamping of the satirical program.
be fired from this job eventually," laments Stewart. "People
seem to have a four-month tolerance of me. Actually, I started
out on Comedy Central with Short Attention Span Theater
so when I went back, it was as if I was going home. I had a warm,
cuddly Hope Floats kind of feeling."
On the show,
Stewart had a field day commenting on the Monica Lewinsky-Bill
Clinton mess. But when the crisis in Kosovo replaced Monicagate
as the top news story of the day, the comic nearly hung up his
of the images coming out of Kosovo were so horrific, you think,
`This is tragedy. There's nothing funny about this.' And then
somebody came running in the room and went, `Fabio got hit in
the face with a goose!' That saved us for weeks. It was like receiving
a gift from the gods."
has always been blessed with wicked sense of humor. Back at Lawrenceville
High School, Jon Stewart Leibowitz was voted the funniest member
of his senior class.
from William and Mary College with a degree in psychology, Stewart
decided to try and make a living out of being a smart aleck. His
first gig was at the storied Bitter End on Bleecker Street. "You
get the whole history of, `Woody Allen started here' and `Bill
Cosby started here.' Let me tell you, they were long gone by 1987."
or so years later, with a successful career as a stand-up under
his belt, Stewart started popping up as a talk-show host all over
the cable TV dial. "I'm just lucky Pat Sajak went back to
Wheel of Fortune when he did," cracks Stewart. "That
means more work for me."
In fact, Stewart
has all the work he can handle. Lately, he's been turning down
movie roles to accommodate his Daily Show hosting duties.
He's so settled in New York, he's thinking of starting a family
with Tracey, his veterinary-student girlfriend of four years.
that I've done Big Daddy, getting married and having kids
doesn't seem so alien to me," he said. "Of course, I
could always do the Anthony Quinn thing. When I turn 80, I could
go, `I am full of life and sperm! Let's dance the dance of love.'
I'm the kind of guy who wants to be in the delivery room. I have
experience in that area. The birth process is a lot like show
business. You come out all happy and then some guy slaps you across