Maxim: Can I ask you a blunt question?
Jon Stewart: Sagittarius.
M: Good to know; but actually I was wondering
which presidential candidate is getting your vote.
JS: I haven’t made up my mind, quite frankly. In times
like this it’s hard to be a great leader because the country is
healthy, fat, and happy. After 10 years of prosperity, FDR could
run right now and people would be, like, “‘Nothing to fear but
fear itself’? Shaddup!”
M: Are you better off than you were eight
JS: Let’s see.… When I started out in the business I was
eating a lot of bologna sandwiches and sharing a room with a dude
who was an alcoholic, so I’d say I’ve done pretty well. But I’d
like to think it wasn’t all thanks to the stock market. Hopefully
I got better at what I do. At the time I was living like that,
quite frankly, I deserved to live like that.
M: So how did a short Jewish stand-up
comedian come to be the political spokesperson for this generation?
JS: You’re talking about Bill Maher, right? I don’t think
there’s a spokesman for anything in this country anymore. There
are 200 million people and 120 freaking channels to choose from.
I’m not even a spokesman for my own viewers—half of them are just
hoping that South Park comes on next. When you’re a star on cable,
you’re just setting the table for the next running of Mannequin
M: Bill Clinton is a political comedian’s
dream come true. Are you depressed that he can’t run for a third
JS: The confluence of events that occurred with him was
magical. The Lewinsky affair was an event that was enormous—and
nobody even died. It was about sex, which is even better, and
then it was about the president’s penis, which is about as topnotch
sex as you can get. But once you start joking about the president’s
penis, you leave the realm of social satire.
M: You covered both conventions.
Which party had the easiest chicks?
JS: Chances are, at 2 a.m. after the convention, everybody
was getting laid. A political convention is no different than
a hardware convention: You take care of business, you pat yourselves
on the back, and then you go out and get drunk. The problem with
our show is, because it’s fake we had to write it, so we ended
up working a lot. Meanwhile Brokaw and Donaldson are fucking partying
down with a keg in the bathtub.
M: Even so, this election is shaping
up to be a colossal bore. Ever get the feeling democracy doesn’t
JS:The system is screwed, but it’s still the best system
there is. I don’t think any of us want to still be walking around
in powdered wigs in Parliament going, “The gentleman from Gloucester
would like a point of reference, please. Robert’s Rules of
Order, sir!” America is the weirdest experiment in socializing
cultures ever. Nobody else has tried this, like: “Yeah, let’s
just let everybody in! And you know who we’re gonna let in first?
The tired, poor, huddled masses! Let’s give that a whirl.”
M: What with MTV and the Internet and
such, why aren’t more young people getting politically active?
JS: Who’s inspiring them to get involved? If anybody has
a decent bullshit detector, it’s kids, and they can see that politics
is all bad theater. There is no one giant cause to get behind.
The Vietnam protest movement was an aberration, where kids stood
up and said, “You know what? The whole shooting-us thing? We’re
not real fond of that.”
M: Were you surprised to be named to
People’s 50 Sexiest list?
JS: Oh, no, I’d been working my way up for years. I was
ranked in the 70s the year before and, through sheer will and
Machiavellian deception, worked my way steadily up. I made sure
some of the people above me got eczema, blotchiness—until there
was nowhere left to go; they had to turn to me. And it was a dream
M: I understand that one of your early
gigs was opening for Sheena Easton. Did she give you any career
JS: I think she only spoke to me once because I bombed
so badly at one gig. She opened the door to my dressing room and
said: [in a thick brogue] “Don’t worry, Jon. Tomorrow’s
another day.” And I remember seeing the sun come up the next morning
and thinking, Fuckin’ A! Sheena was right! I thought for
sure it was going to be the endless infernal night....
M: You got to make out with Gillian Anderson
in Playing by Heart. Any important tips for those of us
who may someday find ourselves in similar circumstances?
JS: Don’t black out. Boy, that’s embarrassing. You never
want to kiss someone in a movie, then wake up six hours later
and go, “What happened?” And the director says, “You soiled yourself.
Now, wash up and get back in there.”
M: Your performance in The Faculty
was easily the best 30 or 40 seconds of the film. Any plans for
a return to the big screen?
JS: Oh, absolutely. When you do a role like that, Hollywood
doesn’t stop knocking on your door. I hate to be typecast as the
guy with the pen stuck through his eye, but now I get calls all
the time: “Jon, we were thinking you should diversify—what about
a Magic Marker in your eye?” “No, no, it’s got to be a pen or
I just won’t do it.” “How about a big stick?” “Nope. No stick.
M: If for some reason the whole comedy
thing doesn’t pan out, what professional sports are you qualified
to do commentary for?
JS: Clearly, kayaking.
M: Imagine, through some quirk
of fate, you are elected president of the United States. The first
line of your inaugural address is…
JS: “Americans…just what kind of quirk of fate is this?
What’s wrong with you people?” Something like that.