"Jon Stewart: Standing Proud"
The Boston Phoenix
December 19, 2002
by Ted Drozdowski


Jon Stewart  and his writing staff at Comedy Central’s The Daily Show have revived satire as a form of witty, active social and political critique — and just plain fun poking. That’s quite an accomplishment in the land of dick jokes that pretty much passes as modern comedy’s terrain. And if dick jokes have a stronghold, it’s certainly stand-up. So it was fascinating to see how Stewart  carried himself when he entered that territory last Saturday for a solo performance at the Orpheum. When he last came to Boston, headlining the Comedy Connection, his Daily Show reign had just begun. He returned this time with Emmy and Peabody awards under his belt for his work on the mock news program, so the stakes were considerably higher.

And he played the game well, ricocheting between arch humor and lowbrow gags, sustaining a balance of risky observations and cheap, reliable laughs. Wearing a gray sweater and matching chinos, he mixed older material with new one-liners, all of it geared to his Boston audience. He zoomed in on the city’s reputation as a drinking town, called Boston his "favorite city to beat up Moby in," and then got down to the hard stuff. "I’m sorry about you guys not having a cardinal. Has it been tough since he resigned? Is the city lacking a moral center now?" He also talked about a new fashion accessory for the city’s Catholic hierarchy ("They have a little wristband that says, ‘What would Enron do?’ ") before going on to savage Mississippi senator Trent Lott’s phony apology — and Boston’s reputation for segregation, including the banning of gay groups from the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. "Gay people are very flamboyant, and you don’t want them distracting from the dignity of that parade," he observed with a trademark rise of his eyebrows and a look of puppy-dog innocence.

Sure, he did get to the dick jokes and the lines about his ass hair combover (to cover a bald spot on his left cheek). But before that, he jabbed at both US policy on Iraq and Saddam Hussein himself, heroin chic, computer games, and phone sex. His finale was one of his vintage crowd killers: a stomach-churning but hilarious routine about his dog’s explosive diarrhea.

I presume Stewart  packs venues like the Orpheum and college arenas these days because of his Daily Show exposure. But if anybody in the crowd was disappointed by his sometimes decidedly unlofty bent, it was impossible to tell over the howls and applause. His mix of relaxed familiarity, a congenial nature, sparkling wit, and self-depreciating humor makes him the rare comic who can be all things to his fans, from arch observer to foul-mouthed-but-lovable slob. 


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