"The F.M. Kirby Center Offers a Daily Dose of Jon Stewart" (with sidebar)
Electric City (PA)
January 24, 2002
by Gene Padden


e.c. gets the last word with the famed funny man

With Jon Stewart, it just never stops. Even the most sincere of questions is going to result in a joke.

Hey Jon, why are you coming to the Kirby?

"Um, it has always been a dream of mine . . . to play the Kirby. What is the Kirby?"

You know, where you're playing Friday night . . .

"Oh! Because of the Dolby Surround Sound and tremendous lighting."

No matter what your sense of humor, you have to admire that sort of sinister sarcasm and the quickness in the delivery.

Stewart, the host of The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, is known for his sharp, satirical, often self-deprecating style of comedy that has landed him countless appearances on other shows and his second consecutive hosting job at the annual Grammy Awards.

"Anytime in show business you get asked back somewhere, you did well. Because there's just way too many times when they go 'Oh, we don't ... want you here ... anymore,'" he says in a phone interview moments before taping his show.

Friday night, Northeastern Pa. gets a rare opportunity to catch Stewart in stand-up form. Like many others, he occasionally does stand-up gigs to keep his skills sharp and his jokes fresh. His observations, although hysterical, are also painfully true. And while he does anchor a "fake news" show every night - poking fun at anything and everything - his favorite target seems to be himself. He's quick to ridicule his abundance of body hair (keep reading) or lack of height (he's 5-7).

The fact that he's funny helps, but much of the success of The Daily Show can be attributed to Stewart's uncanny ability to come off on screen as a normal, down-to-earth guy. Since he took over from Craig Kilborn in 1999, the show's ratings have increased by 400-percent.

In 2001, The Daily Show received the prestigious PEABODY Award for excellence, and also received two 2001 Emmy Award nominations for "Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Series" and for "Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music or Comedy Program" and received the Emmy Award for "Outstanding Writing in a Variety, Music or Comedy Program."

His book, Naked Pictures of Famous People, was a critically-acclaimed fixture on the NY Times Best-Seller List, and he's also starred with Adam Sandler in one of 1999's biggest movies, Big Daddy. A recent cameo saw him as newscaster Reg Hartner in this year's Kevin Smith effort Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back.

"I was actually the lead and then they cut all around me and next thing you know, it's about those two, instead of the newscaster. It's a whole ... different ... thing," he says. "And let me tell you something about Jersey, and the filmmaking community. That's all we got, is Kevin Smith. Oh sure, you'll say DeVito, but no, Kevin Smith is all we need.

Stewart was named one of People Magazine's "50 Most Beautiful People" in 1999, and until then, had starred as himself on The Larry Sanders Show, a guest host on The Late, Late Show with Tom Snyder, and from 1994-95, he hosted the critically-acclaimed Jon Stewart Show on MTV.

Even though it was arguably one of the funniest shows on TV, Stewart's show was canned by Paramount, and the last airing was one to remember, with guest David Letterman.

"Letterman? He's a very talented young man. I definitely see a future for him," Stewart says.

He says he doesn't miss the talk-show format.

"Not particularly. I like much more focusing around issue-oriented material," he says.

OK Jon, I'm going to ask you a series of questions ...

"Am I being fired?"

No. (It never stops) When was the last time you had someone tell you that you look taller on TV?

"I guess the wife said that ... last night, probably. She was just surprised. I thought she was used to it, but ... "

Had a guest you were really excited about?

"The year was 1995. The guest was David Letterman. You know, we're doing the show and you're running around so much, you don't have much time to get excited. We're not the first stop on the tour so we're just happy someone stops by."

Had a guest you didn't get along with?

"There was a time I had a guy who used to steal my lunch ... no wait, that's something else. You're only there for four minutes so it's hard not to get along with someone. Then, you move on so you might not have gotten along but you really don't know. And they leave, so they don't say as they're leaving, 'Oh hey by the way, you suck.' "

You offended someone?

"It's hard to know. My guess is last night, but you never know."

Bought a CD?

"Last weekend. The I am Sam soundtrack. There are some good songs ... the Across the Universe by Rufus Wainright ... but it's hard because you really like the songs but it's not The Beatles ... it's OK."

Went to a movie?

"I went out and saw The Royal Tenenbaums. I liked it. I enjoy the idea of setting something in New York but not in New York, sort of this weird nether zone where they were."

Flew on a plane?

"Oh boy. I don't remember. A long time ago."

Rode the subway?

"Over the weekend."

Had a news story that was a gift from God?

"The pretzel. Probably because you know, he was OK, plus it wasn't sad so, that was a good one I think everyone had fun with."

Had a bad hair day?

"Ha ha ha! Every day. It's a little thing called grease, my brother. If you stay out of the shower long enough, you'll find out what I'm talking about."

Can you leave us with a Moment of Zen?

"Yup! Thinking about that bad hair day ... also on my back. That's your Moment of Zen my brother."

Ten things you probably didn't know about Jon Stewart:

- His birth name is Jonathan Stuart Liebowitz. When 60 Minutes asked him why he dropped Leibowitz, Stewart explained: "Sounded too Hollywood."

- He's 5-foot-7, and when he replaced the near 7-footer Craig Kilborn on The Daily Show, they brought in a "miniature" desk for Jon.

- He's left-handed.

- Decided to quit smoking on Dec. 28, 2000, after being encouraged by the CGL Foundation.

- He gets paid $1.5 million to do a year of The Daily Show.

- He was born in Trenton, NJ, and worked in the NJ department of health, working with mosquitoes.

- He has a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology from the College of William & Mary, Va.

- He was a professional Tap Dancer at the NJ Soft Shoe Club.

- Recently completed the Danny De Vito-directed comedy Death to Smoochy, starring Edward Norton, Robin Williams, De Vito and Catherine Keener. Stewart plays a ruthless network executive who fires kidshow host "Rainbow Randoph" (Williams) and replaces him with a blue rhino (Norton). As a result, Randolph plots the murder of his rival host. Warner Bros. will release the film in March.

- Won $250,000 for the Alzheimer's Association during a celebrity edition of Who Wants to be a Millionare. The show's female staff members voted Jon the cutest celebrity on the show.

Ten of Jon Stewart's funniest TV moments:

- On Who Wants to be a Millionaire, 2001: Regis: "The Alzheimer's Association would win a quarter million dollars if you get this, and if you don't, they're back down to $32,000." Jon: "Yeah, but they'd forget about it by tomorrow." (The audience laughs, then boos playfully. Jon explains his grandmother had died from Alzheimer's)

- From his hosting the 2001 Grammy's: "I don't know what all the controversy is about, quite frankly. I've met Eminem, I met him backstage, and he's really gay."

- From 60 Minutes, 2001: "Oh, yeah. We - we keep our TV probably tuned mostly to CNN. And, you know, if we want fair reporting, then Fox. You know, they report and we decide. I don't know if you knew that. We're really good that way."

- On taking over The Daily Show in 1999 (Ultimate TV): "There's always anxiety when you start a new job . . . you're the one guy who doesn't know where the ketchup is."

- From Larry King Live, 1998: "Because in conversational rock, paper, scissors, oral sex beats almost anything. So there's really - you can go on stage and talk about racism and religion and things but boy, oral sex. People love to talk about - and if something - Presidential oral sex, that's just - my god, that's the Yeti. That's the grand pappy of all things to talk about."

- From Politically Incorrect, 1998: Michael Bolton: "I'm single. The point is - the point is, do we want our President waking up to lawyers and depositions about this? Do we really want that?" Jon: "I don't think that's what he's been waking up to, to be honest with you."

- From Politically Incorrect, 1998: Alan Keyes: "And the people who are to blame for that are people who voted a degraded character into office." Jon: "You worked for Richard Nixon, the Babe Ruth of Corruption."

- From Politically Incorrect in 1997: "McVeigh's lawyer got him the death penalty, which, quite frankly, I could have done."

- From Politically Incorrect in 1997: "Here's the point - you're looking at affirmative action, and you're looking at marijuana. You legalize marijuana, no need for quotas, because really, who's gonna wanna work?"

- From the last episode of The Jon Stewart Show, 1995: David Letterman: "Hi, Jon. This is a great place." Jon: "You can have any of this stuff you want."

* Facts and quotes compiled from imdb.com, the Jon Stewart Web ring, and Gene Padden's memory.


WHAT: Jon Stewart WHERE: FM Kirby Center, 71 Public Square, Wilkes-Barre WHEN Friday, Jan 25, 8 p.m. TICKETS: Available at the Box Office or by calling 570.826.1100.


Guess Who's Coming to the Kirby

The season's roster shines bright
by gene padden

Jon Stewart, Bob Newhart, Anne Murray, Aretha Franklin, The Moody Blues, The Temptations ... the FM Kirby Center has a hefty schedule of acts playing this season.

And if you're wondering how the Kirby succeeds in booking such diverse, eclectic acts season after season, don't ask executive director Marilyn Santarelli, because her lips are sealed.

"Ahahahahahaha," she laughs. "Can you type that chuckle? All I can say is we work hard and we have a great group of people.

A shining example of that effort is the Center's landing of Aretha Franklin, who will play the venue on March 28. It took three years to book Aretha.

"She doesn't fly, and she comes out of Detroit, and she works when she feels like working," she says. "One time her agent said she was simply spending time with her grandchildren. When her schedule finally does permit, lots of people wait in line to get her and it's on her timetable, so we were really lucky to get her."

The Kirby has been flooded with calls regarding the Aretha show. Tickets go on sale to the general public Saturday. Only single seats remain for The Moody Blues, on April 9, and seats remain for Anne Murray, Bob Newhart, and Friday's Jon Stewart performance.

These shows come at a time when entertainers are excited to get on with touring in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks. Those attacks saw hundreds of performers cancel dates out of fear of flying and negative ticket sales.

Like countless other venues nationwide, the Kirby Center suffered a slow fall season.

"We didn't do as well as we had hoped," Santarelli says. "But we did no worse than any others across the country."

Since it is a performing arts venue, the Kirby typically programs a lot of dance, ballet, symphonic, and broadway acts and then drops in a few headliners to offset any losses it might incur with the lesser-known "artsy" shows. This season is an exception, as the Kirby has pulled a few extra headliners to compensate for fall losses.

"We really did enter the season with a very aggressive, eclectic schedule, and we knew some would do well, and some not-so-well, but we have a very diverse audience," she says. "We don't have that many people here; only 600-800 people come to a jazz concert and maybe 800 to a modern dance performance.

"But we feel the need to do that, because we're a performing arts center, not just an entertainment venue."

Upcoming shows:
Jon Stewart
Jan. 25, 8 p.m., $49.50, 39.50, 29.50


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Article copyright © 2002 Electric City. All rights reserved.
Thanks to Kelly for the article.

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