"Jon Stewart on comedy, geopolitics, hemorrhoids"
Cincinnati Enquirer
October 16, 2002
by John Kiesewetter


We could become a comedy team, Jon Stewart and I.

I ask the questions, and the The Daily Show's hilarious host fires off the one-liners.

Take my straight man, please:

So you're coming to Cincinnati, just like President Bush?

"Yes, and I'm going to have a very similar-sized security detail, so I hope that doesn't upset people in Cincinnati," says the comedian, who performs at Taft Theatre at 8 p.m. Friday.

"I'll do a show, and make one policy speech."

Will you wear a suit and tie, as you do on The Daily Show? Or dress more casually?

"It depends on how I feel. It might just be a cocktail dress," says Mr. Stewart, 38, who did talk shows for MTV and syndication before replacing Craig Kilborn in 1999 on The Daily Show, the scathing satirical news show (11 p.m. Monday-Thursday, Comedy Central).

"No, it will be more casual," he says. "And I want people to know that there will be profanity - sometimes from me, and sometimes from the audience."

How does your stand-up act differ from The Daily Show parody newscast?

"It's rambling musings about what's wrong with everybody but me. I talk about the things that I'm obsessed with - war, sex, death, religion and hemorrhoids."

Did The Daily Show go global on CNN International last month, as announced in July?

"Don't you feel the difference in world affairs? Don't you feel the uptick in the nations getting along?"

Does CNN's worldwide audience realize you're a comedy show?

"It runs with who knows how many disclaimers on CNN saying, "This Is Not Real News!!" he says.

You know, Jon, I remember your telling TV critics about the CNN deal at the summer press tour.

"CNN has bought the show, and I really don't know why. I'm not sure they realize that we're actually making fun of them.

"I feel badly for the countries that think that we're serious, but I've heard that in sub-Saharan Africa, irony is considered a real art form. ... Listen, this is not the first time we've been broadcast internationally. We have been in Canada for two years now - and may I say, without incident."

How have the ratings been?

"Honestly, I have no idea. I don't know how viewing is measured in other parts of the world. My guess is that CNN doesn't even know."

Have you always been interested in politics?

"Well, at 6 I ran for alderman. Actually, as a child, I was far more attracted to baseball and sports," says the New York native who played soccer for William & Mary College in Williamsburg, Va.

"I just found politics interesting. And when I learned that history wasn't black-and-white, that there were two sides to an issue, then history became more interesting."

So the mix of political satire and brief celebrity interviews makes The Daily Show a perfect fit for you?

"What I like about it is that the fuel of The Daily Show isn't show biz. It's world events," he says.

"It's tough doing a regular talk show, and you have to act like you care about what the wife on 24 is doing," he says.

"It's interesting, quite frankly, that the interview on The Daily Show gives us a four- or five-minute break, and really helps us focus on the (comedy) we're doing that day."

Why are you taking The Daily Show on the road to Washington, D.C., on Oct. 28 for a week of "Indecision 2002" shows?

"Because the country can't stop talking about the mid-term elections," says Mr. Stewart, whose "Indecision 2000" presidential campaign coverage won Peabody and Emmy awards.

"Don't you feel the excitement about the 15th Congressional District race in Idaho?"

Did you catch much flak from New Yorkers with your "America Freaks Out" comedy segments during the post-9-11 anthrax scare a year ago?

"In New York, we were all shell-shocked. As my wife said, `It would be nice that the world wasn't ending 10 blocks away - all the time.'

"The other networks were doing segments called, `America Fights Back,' `America Responds,' `America Mourns.' We thought of calling it, `America Has A Sandwich.' Or `America Goes To The Bathroom: We'll Be Right Back.' "

Since Comedy Central began airing Late Night with Conan O'Brien reruns at 7 p.m. last month, The Daily Show repeats have been bumped from 7 to 5:30. p.m. Has that hurt your ratings?

"I don't know. I don't watch the network," he says.

Does going on the road help keep your comedy instincts sharp?

"We get a real good sense of what things people think are important, by what they respond to," he says. "We're very isolated in the studio in New York. We're putting together most of the show from media (video) sources."

Is it hard to keep your stand-up act fresh?

"You try to keep the quality up. But this still is preferable to working. I know what working is."

So tell me, what types of jobs did you do before becoming a show business success?

"Oh, I did construction work, landscaping, bartending. I was a waiter for a while," he says.

"And I was a male gigolo, but I was very bad at that. I kept saying, `But lady, you're SO OLD!' "

Thank you, thank you very much. You've been a great audience.

If you go:
What: The Diet Coke with Lemon Improv Tour with Jon Stewart and Jim Gaffigan
When: 8 p.m. Friday
Where: Taft Theatre
Tickets: $35 at Taft Theatre box office, Ticketmaster outlets, Ticketmaster.com or 562-4949.


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