"The Grammys - Q & A"
Los Angeles Times
February 21, 2001
by William Keck

 

He'll Be Wearing a Furry Dress and Telling Watergate Jokes
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 to Smoochy."

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 social commentator?

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 nada.

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 back hair.

Q: What an image. Is there a backup host in case you're struck ill?

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 be crazy!

Photo caption:
"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

 

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Copyright © 2001 Los Angeles Times. All rights reserved.
Thanks to Kelly for the article.

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