"Jon Stewart, Newsman"
New York Newsday
April 16, 2001
by Liz Smith


"I DON'T even know what 'Generation X' means. Maybe it's because I once worked for MTV. I have no tattoos. There's nothing pierced on my body. I don't represent them, unless Gen X looks like a 38-year-old guy with asthma and a little bit of hair on the back." So spoke Jon Stewart, star of Comedy Central's "The Daily Show." It sends up serious news broadcasting.

Stewart is hot. His show has won a Peabody Award. He has a feature story in the current Vanity Fair, and "60 Minutes'" Steve Kroft has him in the can, immortalized on a coming Sunday night. You may remember him from HBO's hit "The Larry Sanders Show." Liz: Do you think of yourself as a commentator, a moralist or are you an actor?

Jon: I think of myself as one bad performance away from night-managing a Bennigan's.

Liz: You have a long list of movie credits, though I've never heard of most of them.

Jon: They're very big in Belgium ...South America, very popular down there.

Liz: How does it feel to win the prestigious Peabody award?

Jon: Very excited. We also get a free lunch out of it, and when you're on cable TV that certainly counts.

Liz: Did you like the piece in Vanity Fair by James Wolcott? He's a very smart man.

Jon: Very much. I didn't understand a lot of it. I had no idea we were that good.

Liz: Has the TV critic John Leonard ever written about you?

Jon: No, in fact, he actually left a message at my house saying he will never write about me.

Liz: He and Wolcott are intellectuals, covering TV. Imagine that!

Jon: Well, we only allow one great man to write about "The Daily Show," and Wolcott jumped it.

Liz: I have to confess I've never seen your show.

Jon: You know the network, Liz. The show right after ours has robots fighting. You'd really enjoy it.

Liz: Was it exciting spending 60 hours with "60 Minutes?"

Jon: Well, when Steve Kroft shows up, you ask yourself, "My God, what have I done? Do they know I have rolled back the odometer on my car?"

Liz: You live in New York. Are you married and do you have kids?

Jon: I am married, but I had to look to see if I have kids. No, a dog and a cat.

Liz: Tell me, what could network news do to redeem itself in your eyes? So it would not be something you could make fun of?

Jon: Why would I tell them and put myself out of work?

Liz: Seriously...you are always criticizing news in a not-so-subtle manner, and there must be a way the networks could fix the news.

Jon: Seriously? I think the majority of networks should not let news coverage and presentation follow the same guidelines as the entertainment shows. News should not be ratings driven. It was when they started making money from news that they ruined it.

MY NEW crush is Gary Sinise. (Actually, I've been smitten ever since he was so great in "Forrest Gump.") This co-founder of the Steppenwolf Theatre Co. really comes into his own in Broadway's "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest." It is no small thing to make a mark in a role already done to perfection by Jack Nicholson. But Sinise is powerful.

The drama is awash in misogyny and dated Freudian syntax, but remains gripping and is often funny. It was great to meet the 7-foot-tall Tim Sampson, who plays Chief Bromden. He is following in the footsteps of his dad, Will, who had the same role in the movie.

At the smashing Tavern on the Green party, Tim, a Creek Indian, said, "I've been playing this part all my life. We both had big fathers; the government trampled on our culture, and we survived alcohol and life on the reservation. This is better than when I did stunts. Then, I'd be happy to have one line in a movie before they threw me out the window."

OUTBREAK OF AUSSIES: We have Hugh Jackman, Heath Ledger and Russell Crowe. And here comes their top comic, Eric Bana, in the shocking new movie "Chopper," based on the true life of a notorious serial killer.

There has been a tidal wave of complaints about this film, which glorifies the grisly exploits of Mark Read, who told his own story in "From the Inside." He became a counter-culture hero and catnip to demented women. Bana was handpicked by the jailed killer, and went on to win the Australian "Oscar" for his acting. "Chopper" is a marvelous film about a horrible person and his embrace by the sickos in our midst. Is it immoral to admire the movie? I haven't figured that out yet.


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Copyright © 2001 New York Newsday. All rights reserved.
Thanks to Melly for the article.

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