"Giving everyone his daily dose"
The University of Delaware Review
September 1999
by Lee Breslouer

 

Being Jewish has negatively influenced Jon Stewart's career in comedy. "It's tough for me, because usually I like to write my jokes on my foreskin," he says. "Without having that there, it makes it difficult."

But being Jon Stewart isn't all that bad. On Oct. 11, the actor/comedian will perform at the Bob Carpenter Center in his first appearance at the University of Delaware.

"The Bob Carpenter Center?" he wonders out loud in a phone interview with The Review. "To honor the great Bob Carpenter? Who's Bob Carpenter?"

When told the Bob Carpenter Center is not only a gymnasium but also a venue for concerts, Stewart is a bit skeptical. "So it's [going to be] a 10,000-person arena with 30 kids sitting there with Daily Show T-shirts on," he says. "I'd like everybody to spread out. That way we use the whole gymnasium, but only have two people in each section."

Stewart's performance at the university might be slightly different from the stand-up he has done in the past. "It's going to be a bawdy musical -lots of pantomime," he says.

Becoming serious, Stewart speaks about what his act will actually entail. "You're always working on new things," he says. "You're always continuing to try and tweak your old things, and putting all that together and hoping people enjoy themselves."

And enjoying themselves they are. More than half a million people tune into The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Monday through Thursday to see news presented with a sarcastic bite.

Stewart succeeded Craig Kilborn as the host of Comedy Central's The Daily Show, beginning in January 1999.

But not only an anchorman for the highly-rated show, he also spends much of his time writing and producing.

"I usually get up around 5 - that's p.m," he says. "And it's usually a cold blast of water in the face to sleep off last night's drunk. And then I stumble in and start writing."

When talking to Stewart, the punch lines come so quickly and easily it almost seems effortless. Eventually, he does get around to answering questions.

"I get in around 10:30, leave at 8:30," he says.

So what does a man who earns $1.5 million a year do with his spare time?

"The majority of my life is spent either here [at The Daily Show]," he says, "or trying to figure out when the dog has to take a crap, doing crossword puzzles, watching SportsCenter - that sort of thing."

Not exactly the vida loca of a movie and TV star.

"Oh, the fantasy is there, isn't it?" he says. "Can't you taste it? The good life."

Hardly an overnight success in show business, Stewart had to work quite a few jobs before landing the plum role of hosting the twisted news show.

"I got out of school and floated around a bit," he says. "Did a bunch of crappy jobs, and thought, 'Wow, I suck at everything!' "

After graduating from the College of William and Mary with a psychology degree, Stewart didn't catapult directly into the spotlight.

"I'd always had a hankering to write and just decided one day, "Why don't I just sell my car and go to New York?' " he says. "And that's what I did. I was in the city for a good nine months to a year before I had the balls to go up on stage."

After appearing on HBO's Young Comedians Special and Late Show with David Letterman, he was given his own late night talk show. MTV's The Jon Stewart Show was born.

As for whether or not it was an entertaining show, Stewart has his opinions.

"It wasn't particularly funny - not according to the Nielsens," he says. "There were days when I thought we were doing really interesting, funny stuff, and there were other days when I thought we just took an hour of people's time."

And less than a year after the show was born, it died.

Stewart didn't just sit there, however. He signed a development deal with David Letterman's Worldwide Pants, the production company that produces Late Show and The Late Late Show, both for CBS.

Although nothing substantial came of the deal, Stewart did some guest-hosting duties for The Late Late Show in 1998. But other than that, he wasn't utilized.

Luckily, a deal with Miramax gave his career a boost.

Stewart signed on to appear in two films a year for Miramax, most recently the films The Faculty and Playing By Heart.

As an actor and a comedian, Stewart doesn't seem to prefer acting to comedy, or vice versa.

"I sort of get the sense that it's all the same thing, just in different forms," he says, "I don't look at it as that different. "I guess when you're doing this show or comedy, there's more of a chance for spontaneity, and I always like that.

"But there's something to be said for spending 14 hours in a trailer smoking cigarettes and saying the same line over and over again."

The next movie on tap for Stewart, following his role in this summer's Big Daddy, is The Adventures of Tom Thumb and Thumbelina. The Miramax film is a children's musical, starring the voices of Jennifer Love Hewitt and Elijah Wood. Stewart does not, however, exercise his musical talent.

"I think it's an animated film," he says. "I'm one of the moles. I didn't have to sing. I went in one day and had to bang out a voiceover. I believe I played the skinny mole."

As for his favorite film, it was a tough decision to make.

"Oh, I'm going to have to go with - boy, there are so many Police Academies, " he says.

If movies and television weren't enough for the New Jersey native, he wrote a book too.

His book, Naked Pictures of Famous People, is a collection of humorous essays. He calls it a lousy Without Feathers, alluding to Woody Allen's best-selling comedy book from the '70s.

"I very much like writing comedy," he says. "When I wrote the book, I had many an agonizing night squeezing blood from a stone. "But overall, the idea that I get to do this for a living is mind-boggling to me."

 

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