"Jon Stewart: The Grammy.com Interview"
Grammy Magazine
February 22, 2002
by David Konjoyan


This year's GRAMMY host on, among other things, meeting Destiny's Child in the bathroom

For the second consecutive year, Jon Stewart takes the reins of the GRAMMY stage to host the biggest music show on earth, bringing with him a sardonic wit, a cadre of avid fans, and a year's experience helming the GRAMMYs.

So what does it feel like to host the mother of all music shows? "I was locked in a room with no windows, and we were just writing a monologue," recalls Stewart. "So it didn't feel much different, quite honestly, than my regular job. Other than the fact that every now and again, I open the door to go to the bathroom and Destiny's Child would walk by."

As host of Comedy Central's "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart," Stewart brings his quirky vision of the world to appreciative audiences every night. "The Daily Show" has been winning praise and awards since Stewart took over the host's chair in 1999. In 2001, the show received the Peabody Award for excellence. The award recognizes distinguished achievements in the radio and TV fields. The show also received an Emmy for Outstanding Writing In Variety, Music Or Comedy Program.

Other than last year's GRAMMYs, Stewart's most musical activities – besides opening for Sheena Easton in Las Vegas – included two shows for MTV, including the network's first talk show. "It was magic," says Stewart of his time at the formerly all-music video channel. "It was very similar to working at a party at your friend's house when his parents weren't home. A lot of beer caps in the potted plants."

In addition to the GRAMMYs, Stewart has enjoyed other successful side projects. On the acting front, Stewart just wrapped filming on the Danny DeVito-directed comedy, Death To Smoochy. The movie follows a turn in the huge Adam Sandler hit Big Daddy. Additionally, Stewart's book, Naked Pictures Of Famous People, made the New York Times bestseller list. As Entertainment Weekly noted of Stewart and the book, "You've got to be smart to be a smart-ass."

Now Jon Stewart brings his acerbic tongue, nimble wit and awe of the contemporary music scene back again, this time for the 44th Annual GRAMMY Awards. This could be the start of something big.

This will be your second GRAMMYs. Just couldn't stay away?
You know, most of the time you do something, it's like a first date. "Heck, well, they'll never call me again." So to be asked back, that's [like] I got to second base with the GRAMMYs.

Having hosted one GRAMMY show, what's the secret to success?
I'll tell you, it's the intimacy of the venue. It's being up close and personal with these 15,000 or so attendees. That's what I really love. It's like "Unplugged" in many respects.

I think for last year you should have won an Emmy for Best Host Signed On Five Days Before The Show.
Yes, I was kind of hoping that I'd have an excuse this year as well. I don't know if I will.

It's a little late for Sept. 11 at this point.
Yes, exactly. But, I think in some respects it was almost more enjoyable to do it that way, 'cause it really was just a whirlwind. I mean, the truth is, I'm probably only gonna work on it, you know, five days again this year, 'cause you know what, you don't have time to do it before. It's gonna be like "Name That Tune": "I could do the GRAMMYs in two days next year."

Last year seemed like it must have been crazy trying to get it together so quickly.
It was, but the only difference was, I was locked in a room with no windows, and we were just writing a monologue. So it didn't feel much different quite honestly than my regular job. Other than the fact that at the other job, I have windows. And every now and again, I open the door to go to the bathroom or something, and, you know, Destiny's Child would walk by. Like, it was just weird. I'm not used to being around that environment.

Not while going to the bathroom ...
You know what? Actually, now that I think about it, I was in the wrong room. [But I'm] just not used to the rock stars' life of ease of getting stuff done – like, if you say, "Boy I could really just go for a coffee right now," two runners would be, like, "Okay, you want it steamed?" You know, it's just a different vibe.

And they treated you that way?
Yeah, they did. All you need in the music world is a laminate. For all they know you're in U2. They don't know. You have a laminate? Forget it. You're gold.

What was it like last year when you presided over a historic moment when Elton and Eminem performed together?
I think by then the show was almost over so I think at that point I'm not even sure I was watching anymore. I was just in the back trying to, you know, get the back sweat out of my shirt. You know, I thought it was a neat pairing, and I enjoy that song, and I thought they did a nice job of it. But I was never of the mind-set that, you know, my God, this wasn't Gandhi and Nehru getting together. This wasn't a historic coupling on the lines of your Lewis and Clarks. I mean, it was a nice musical moment.

You don't see it differently in retrospect?
In retrospect, even less so. I remember the days when the tightened security was because of Eminem and Elton John. Innocent times, if you will.

I thought it was one of the funniest lines in the show when you said you met Eminem backstage and he was really gay.
Well, I hope so. I hope I'd have one f**king good line in the show.

Did he kick your ass after saying that?
Not that I'm aware of. I think the guy's got a pretty good sense of humor. I think I just got his autograph and that was about the end of it. Signed a baseball, and I was done.

Of the two, upcoming Oscar host Whoopi Goldberg and Emmy host Ellen DeGeneres, who do you think is the better singer?
Uh, I don't know who the better singer is. I just know that I'm the most womanly. Actually, you know what? I think Ellen actually can sing. I heard her sing on "SNL," I think, and she does have a pretty nice voice. So I'm gonna put my vote with her.

What surprised you the most about hosting the GRAMMYs last year?
I think what surprised me most about the night is that Christina Aguilera is only 11 inches tall and could actually fit inside that little ball that they lowered from the ceiling. What surprised me most was how many people surround each musical act. I kept thinking that Muhammad Ali was coming down the corridor, which turned out to be, you know, the Blue Man Group. Every musical act had quite a few handlers, so it was interesting. You never actually saw the act. You just sort of saw this phalanx of, I assume, handlers.

Which I guess is sort of the point.
I guess [laughs].

How was it working in front of music's biggest artists and VIPs that night?
The beauty of that is I have no idea who they are. So the slightly balding graying gentleman in the front who's frowning at me and could crush my musical career doesn't affect me as much because I have no music career. But, I don't think I feel nervous about that. Connecting with an audience that's very inside as well as trying to connect to an audience that's at home is really the more difficult situation: how inside do you play it? And the fact of the matter is how inside can I play it; I really know nothing about the music industry [laughs]. So I could try to play it inside, like, "Hey, how about those ... seven album ... 10 percent commission ... deal, "... I really don't know anything about it, so I'm sure I'd sound like an idiot.

But in the last year you've been reading up on it.
I have not. I don't think I've even listened to music since the GRAMMYs.

Have you been following the Courtney Love case?
You know what? I did read about that. She's suing the other two guys from Nirvana?

That's one of them, but she's got, like, eight lawsuits going.
Oh, is that true? That's exciting.

What was it really like to work at MTV?
Magic. No, it was very similar to working at a party at your friend's house when his parents weren't home. A lot of beer caps in the potted plants.

Do you think it's still that way?
I don't think so.

They've gone corporate?
I just think they went professional, as opposed to what we were doing, which was idiotic.

I went on Amazon.com and I couldn't find any Jon Stewart CDs.
Uh, now, under what genre did you look?

Well, mostly comedy, but I looked under every genre.
Hmm. Well, I did something [with a] a throat band, a Mongolian throat band that I've done some work with.

So you're actually listed in the credits?
Uh, under my Mongolian name. I did a remake obviously of Eddie Murphy's "Party All The Time," a capella with just a slight hint of klezmer, but that hasn't gone anywhere. Again, the beauty of me hosting the GRAMMYs: absolutely no musical ability whatsoever. Honestly, somebody gets out there and throws down "Chopsticks," I'm blown away.

What was the first record you bought?
You know what? I think the first one I got was, like, KISS Live or something.

That's kind of cool.
Not at the time. Sweet, I think it was Sweet, remember Sweet?

"Sweet F.A.," "Ballroom Blitz"...

... "Fox On The Run"... Do you still have them?
I still have them, actually, the vinyls.

With, theoretically, a little more planning time, any Billy Crystal-esque opening numbers in the works?
Billy has gone on and done song parodies of the movies that were nominated. I will be doing movie parodies of the songs that were nominated.

I think that's an excellent idea.
Thank you. I'm excited. Dude, let me ask you this. If I'm I gonna be hosting, do I get named on any Dick Clark stuff? Am I safe from that? How angry is that guy? How much show business do you have to be in? He already owns New Year's Eve. What else do you need?


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