"Must be moving on"
Chicago Sun-Times
June 20, 1999
by Cindy Pearlman


Jon Stewart can't stay in one place too long

LOS ANGELES -- Years before he became a big fish, Jon Stewart worked in a really small pond. "I was the fish guy in the stockroom of Woolworth's," says Stewart, who spent his summers toiling in a stuffy backroom in Lawrence Township, N.J.

Back then, Stewart didn't kill with his jokes. He killed with his clumsiness. "They had these big beanbag chairs in the stock room and I dove into one and slipped," he says of the day he crash-landed into an aquarium and wiped out $10,000 worth of tropical fish.

"I was in the process of throwing the dead fish into the incinerator when the manager caught me and fired me. Then I had to go eat dinner with him because he was also my brother," the comedian gripes. "This was just the beginning. I get fired from every job."

His longevity as a movie star? "I'll probably be fired from this gig, too. There seems to be a four-month limit of people's tolerance for me," says Stewart, who fires himself as a father and gives his kid to Adam Sandler in "Big Daddy," opening Friday.

Over breakfast at the Four Seasons Hotel, Stewart mulled his sketchy employment history.

Q. As a warning to teenagers toiling in lackluster summer jobs, how did you manage to get canned from a bakery?

A. (Smirking.) Look, Chicago person, it wasn't my fault, as much of my early childhood wasn't my fault either. You see, my job was to wash these huge silver barrels that they made the bread in. So I would line the barrels with soap and then fill them with water. One day I forgot about the soap and went to scrub tables. Well, the bakery people thought I lined the barrels with flour. Apparently a lot of people found themselves in the mall bathroom that day.

Q. What other jobs were you fired from?

A. I was fired from almost every business establishment in the Quaker Bridge Mall in New Jersey. I was fired from every wing of the mall.

Q. So is it just a matter of time before you're axed from your job as the host of The Daily Show on Comedy Central?

A. No, I think I might actually get to stay longer than the four- month limit because the people in charge know me. I'm their buddy. My employment on the show reminds me of that movie Hope Floats. I went away from these people for years and now they still want me back. I'm the Sandra Bullock for them.

Q. And Adam Sandler, who cast you in Big Daddy, didn't fire you. How did you meet Adam?

A. Oh, it was a blind date.

Q. But it didn't work out, so you remained friends?

A. Look, I'll do the jokes. If you want to know, Adam, Chris Rock and I actually started on the stand-up circuit at the same time, but I was older than them. I remember thinking at the time - and these were my exact thoughts - "These two little young punks are going to have no trouble at all making it big, and that's really annoying." You could just see success on Adam. Even back then.

Q. So what happens now when your buddy is suddenly making $20 million a movie?

A. Well, you know I used to try to borrow money from Adam when he was making $15 a night. The money thing was no big deal to him even back then. He was always a soft touch, the kind of guy who would give you 10 bucks and keep five for himself. Now the money is just in much bigger volume.

Q. Let's switch gears. How do you think The Daily Show is going?

A. I'd actually like to see it going further down the dial. I want it to be past Spanish television. If we can go past Univision on the channel list, we're really going to make something out of this show. You know C-SPAN? It's very popular. I want to be on the next channel after C-SPAN, in case people overshoot and miss. Then they'll see me.

Q. If you get this dream slot, does this mean the show will be more serious, but as a tribute to the Spanish station you'll also do musical numbers?

A. If I get my dream slot, I'll do the show in a flamenco costume and sing about living that vida loca.

Q. Did you really get cut from The First Wives Club?

A. Yeah, it's sad. In The First Wives Club, I was supposed to be one of Goldie Hawn's boyfriends. It was the first time that people in a focus group actually got together and said, "Edit this guy out." I have never seen anything so rabid. These people literally walked from a screening room into the editing room and did the splicing themselves.

Q. Will you do more movies?

A. Nah. I'm doing the show now and I'm really locked in for the next year or so. The show has a brutal pace. It actually runs like a news show more than anything else, so I'm literally on deadline every single day looking for news items.

Q. Any favorites?

A. Timing wise, my favorite news story was when Fabio got hit in the head by the bird. Fabio did me a huge favor by getting his face bloodied, because on the same day we had just attacked Kosovo. Bombs are dropping. Refugees are pouring out and those images were horrific. There was nothing we could use. Suddenly someone on staff comes running into our meeting and screams, "Great news. Fabio just got hit on the nose! He's bleeding!" I ran into the other room and saw the blood in his hair. It was just so perfect. Thank goodness it happened.

Q. This TV show has made you a sex symbol. So women want to know if you're available. This is a public service sort of question, Jon.

A. Are you joking? A sex symbol. Please! Um, OK, here it is. I do have a girlfriend and I'm thinking about marriage and kids. Which is surprising. A few years ago I wanted to do that Anthony Quinn thing.

Q. What's your girlfriend's name?

A. The one she dances under? I think it's Bubbles. Honestly, she's a veterinary student and that's all I'm saying about her except we met on a blind date.

Q. So, life is pretty good.

A. Uh, it's all pretty good compared to working at Woolworth's. But what do I know? I'm just the guy who got fired for killing fish.


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