"TV comedian Jon Stewart, live, receives laughs outside the box"
November 11, 2002
by Dan Pearson 


Midway through his performance Saturday at the Fox Theatre, comedian Jon Stewart posed a question: “Am I sharing too much?” Considering the tone and tenor of Stewart's material, it was not an inappropriate question to ask. The Stewart that the near-capacity crowd at Foxwoods saw and the Stewart that appears each day on the popular Comedy Central talk show “The Daily Show” seemed to be a little different.

On television, Stewart is the smart and smirking ringleader of a group of irreverent correspondents who take brilliant and witty whacks at the Bush administration or the idiosyncrasies of American culture. There's no shortage of idiocy or silliness on “The Daily Show.” But the frivolity is balanced by insightful and subversive commentary on the status quo. On stage Saturday, however, Stewart delivered an R-rated monologue that focused heavily on the anatomical, biological, scatological, and sexual preoccupations of not only the human race, but the canine and feline as well. Stewart started out the evening talking about Bill Clinton and the Middle East. By the end of his 85-minute performance, he was moaning like a cat in heat and describing in detail how his dog eats vomit.

It may sound puerile and tasteless. And, maybe it was. But it was still hilarious. Jon Stewart's encyclopedic wit and perfect timing ensured that nearly every anecdote had the audience in stitches. Stewart also varied the pace and nature of his comedy, mixing improvisation, audience engagement, one-liners and carefully crafted, albeit somewhat graphic, anecdotes. Much of Stewart's material cannot be printed in this paper.

Stewart's core audience are left-leaning 20- and 30-somethings with a penchant for irony. “My real fans are the ones sitting in the back tonight. They're unemployable.” But many of the audience members in the front rows Saturday were older. There was an element of the sweet science to the early part of the performance, as Stewart felt out the audience like a boxer feeling out his opponent in the early rounds.

Wearing black pants, a v-neck sweater and black oxford shoes, Stewart fired of a few barbs at President Bush (“Imagine being drunk until you're 40 and then just waking up one day and saying, “Time to be President”) and military terminology. “Saddam has ‘weapons of mass destruction.' But what are our weapons? Weapons of love? When we bomb a country do the people go ‘mmmm...do you smell cinnamon?”

Over the course of the night, Stewart touched on religion, computers, gays in the military, the Boy Scouts, and the hypocrisy of prohibiting condom ads on the same networks that advertise beer. “How many people do you know that had sex after having too many condoms at a party?”

One of the evening's best observations concerned violence in schools. Stewart said that students should have to take a mandatory trip to a 20-year high school reunion to learn that cliques and popularity don't matter: “See that guy crying over there. He was the captain of the football team. Now, the only place they call him ‘captain' is at Long John Silver's.”

Later, Stewart recalled how difficult it was to quit smoking. “I was only 175 Marlboro Miles away from getting the boat.” Another incisive comment concerned the marketing of The Computer Age. “You had to call it ‘the computer age' to make it sound exciting. You couldn't just call it ‘Sit on your ass and type.” Stewart ended the evening by saluting as the stereo played Procul Harum's “Whiter Shade of Pale.” Stewart left no doubts about his wit or wisdom. But he showed that he is a different comedian when not contained within the four corners of a television screen.


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