"IOP Humor Series hosts Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart"
The Harvard Crimson
December 16, 2002
by Jyothi L. Ramakrishnan


Speaking generally on politics at the ARCO Forum Friday night, comedian Jon Stewart coupled self-deprecating humor with wicked comic jabs to keep the audience rolling in the aisles.

Stewart, host of Comedy Central’s news parody “The Daily Show,” spoke to an audience of 800 at the Forum and 200 who watched the talk live from two overflow rooms in the latest installment of the Institute of Politics (IOP) humor series.

Friday’s discussion began by focusing on the role that late night talk shows play in shaping the public’s understanding of politics.

Moderator Josh I. Weiner ’03, one of the founders of the IOP humor series, began the evening by citing a recent Pew Center study that showed more young people get their news from late night talk shows than from standard news sources.

Stewart stressed that even though “The Daily Show” impacts young people’s political views, it does not push a particular agenda.

“We do comedy shows and we tell jokes about things we care about,” he said. “Those comedians who say I am affecting political change are assholes.”

When Weiner pressed the issue, Stewart said simply, “I do my show, I go home.”

But Stewart also acknowledged that politicians come onto his show with their own agendas—to reach out to a young, hip audience.

“They look at us like ‘I’ll sit on your show and kids will think I’m with it,’” he said.

The evening gave Stewart a chance to discuss his own politics—much to the amusement of the audience.

In a bipartisan slam, Stewart called Republicans “brilliantly evil,” quickly adding, “Democrats, by the way, are tragically pathetic.”

He mocked political conventions, calling them “four-day cheap versions of the Billboard [Music] Awards.”

When asked who he thought the Democratic presidential nominee would be in 2004, he answered unflinchingly, “The Rock,” referring to the wrestler.

Turning to Harvard-specific contests, Weiner asked Stewart who he thought would win in a Death Match—University President Lawrence H. Summers or former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger ’50.

“Let’s face it—Kissinger is 112,” Stewart said. “Summers would win the fight [but] ultimately Kissinger would carpet bomb.”

But Stewart turned serious when asked to discuss the tenure of former New York City mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani.

“What he did for our city was magnificent. Him carrying himself with dignity and courage made us feel like we were all going to survive,” he said.

When asked whether he would consider running for president, Stewart replied, “If the country was on fire, yes!”

He then qualified his response by adding, “There are pictures of me floating around that would disqualify me from working at a post office.”

During the latter part of the talk, Stewart took questions from the audience.

He grew animated when responding to a query about his future plans.

“Did they send you here to fire me?” Stewart asked. “So this is how it’s going to be!”

Audience members said they enjoyed Stewart’s light-hearted banter.

“I didn’t think the evening really plumbed the depths of Jon Stewart’s soul, but it was pretty funny. He is definitely a gifted comedian,” said Peter K. Williams ’06.

Friday’s talk marked the fourth year of the Institute of Politics humor series. The goal of the series, according to Weiner, is to explore the role of political humor in contemporary culture.

Past speakers have included comedians Al Franken ’73 and Chevy Chase.


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