He'll Be Wearing a Furry Dress and Telling
Jon Stewart is just kidding (we think) as he gives the lowdown
on his Grammy-hosting gig
Fifteen minutes may not seem a long time for an interview (frankly,
it's not). But when the interviewee has just been chosen to host
one of the year's most-watched television events with less than
a week to prepare, a quarter of an hour is an enormous sacrifice.
Last week, the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences announced
actor-comedian Jon Stewart as its host for tonight's 43rd Annual
Grammy Awards--a lastminute replacement for Whoopi Goldberg, who
was forced to bow out after suffering heart problems.
Stewart's malleable feet have already filled
some pretty impressive shoes, having played himself during the
last season of HBO's "The Larry Sanders Show," in a story line
that found him being groomed as a replacement for the fictitious
talk show host Sanders (Garry Shandling). Then in January 1999,
life imitated art when he slid behind the desk of Comedy Central's
"The Daily Show," after popular host Craig Kilborn exited for
his self-titled late night CBS talker. Under Stewart's reign,
ratings for "The Daily Show" have climbed--no doubt aided by Stewart's
appearances in films such as the 1999 Adam Sandler blockbuster
"Big Daddy." After the Grammys, he will join Ed Norton and Robin
Williams in the currently shooting Warner Bros. comedy "Death
When we tracked Stewart down in New York on
Friday, he had just finished meeting with his "Daily Show" staff,
and was packing for two out-of-town weekend comedy gigs he'd booked
prior to the Grammy announcement. Due in L.A. on Sunday, Stewart
was clearly operating on autopilot, revealing his sarcastic, super-laid-back
demeanor--no doubt masking some pre-Grammy anxiety.
Question: Are you completely panic-stricken?
Answer: I don't know about panicked. I mean honestly, how
important is your career anyway? When it all boils down to it,
we're all dust. . . . The nice part about this show is that there's
an awful lot of entertainment value that I have absolutely nothing
to do with. This show ain't about me. It's about some crazy good
music. The lineup that they've got [U2, Christina Aguilera,
Madonna] is insane. As long as I try to stay out of the way,
I'll be fine.
Q: When did you learn you'd be hosting the big show?
A: What time is it? The thing is, I hadn't checked my messages.
And there must have been something wrong with my e-mail. When
I clicked on AOL, it said, "You've Got No Time to Rehearse." They
actually approached me for the first time two/three weeks ago,
but they had two other people that had to say "no" first.
Q: Any idea who those people were?
A: I'm assuming it was the usual people that you would
go to. Once Whoopi got ill, I imagine the first call went out
to Mr. T. and from there the rest of the "A-Team." Then they went
to the CBS family, but [Angela] Lansbury, I'm sure, said,
"After what happened with 'Murder, She Wrote,' I'm out."
Q: This is your biggest hosting gig to date, is it not?
A: Aside from the off-air local Emmy show I did in New
Orleans. Admittedly, that was not televised--but can I just say
there was a lotta love in that room. [Stewart actually emceed
the Billboard Awards a few years back.]
Q: What's the week like for you leading up to the Grammys?
A: Tonight I fly down to Florida for a gig at the University
of North Florida. Then it's Chicago for a show at Northwestern.
Then out to L.A. on Sunday.
Q: These shows were booked well before you were named Grammy
host. Did you consider canceling the shows to give yourself more
time to prepare?
A: [Horrified gasp.] What? Sir, do you have no
integrity? A man's word is his bond.
Q: Very gallant. OK, so how do you make the most of the
limited time you have?
A: Are you familiar with est? Basically you just think
about the show and get a couple of friends to write jokes with
you. You write as many as you can, and then shave them down to
the good ones.
Q: Will you be recycling some of the material that was
written for Whoopi?
A: Are you asking me if I "Got Bruce?" [A reference
to Goldberg writer and awards show veteran Bruce Vilanch.]
As far as I know, no. But maybe they'll look at the stuff I've
written and go, "Oh my God, get the other stuff in here!"
Q: What topics are ripe for satirizing this year?
A: Clearly, the Watergate break-ins . . . McGovern. . .
. I'm sorry, I have the wrong year. The biggest thing is obviously
the Eminem/ Elton John duet. That's getting the most attention.
Q: What do you think of Eminem? Big racist or insightful
A: I don't even know the guy. I've never met him. But my
guess is he's not a racist.
Q: Good idea to team with Elton?
A: Isn't that what people who have differences are supposed
to do--get together and try to work it out? I can't imagine how
that could be a bad thing.
Q: On "The Daily Show," you demonstrate a clear grasp of
pop culture. But are you well-versed in the music scene?
A: Very much so. This Jose Feliciano--I like what he does.
He's got a real zip to him.
Q: Don't forget Helen Reddy.
A: She's a little too pushy for me.
Q: Are you a fan of the teen bands?
A: I have trouble watching those videos. It makes me feel
a little Buttafuoco-esque.
Q: So you object to the sexualization of teen pop princesses
like Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera?
A: Let me put it this way. I wouldn't e-mail their pictures
around. I don't want my hard drive seized. Are they underaged?
Q: Uh, yeah. Some are under 18 and dressed in practically
A: I think when you're 18, it's probably the only time
when your midriff is appropriately bearable. Me, I'm 38 and could
very much bear my midriff, but it may make some people nauseous.
Q: Since we're on the subject of fashion, it's been a year
since Jennifer Lopez wore that famous green dress to the 2000
Grammys. What will you be wearing?
A: The same thing Jennifer wore--but made out of my own
Q: What an image. Is there a backup host in case you're
A: Trebek. He's the only other guy who could do this. In
all seriousness, this is one of those rare opportunities, and
I'm really looking forward to this.
Q: And how do you plan to avoid making this another long,
boring awards show?
A: I will not be speaking. No one's ever done it in pantomime
before. Mummenschanz all the way. Just watch out, it's going to
"This is one of those rare opportunities," Jon Stewart says of
being chosen to replace Whoopi Goldberg as next week's Grammy
host. Associated Press