A funny thing happened when stand-up comic
Jon Stewart sat down to write a book: He actually wrote a
funny one. Rather than merely transcribe his monologues (like
Jerry Seinfeld did) or pen a confessional tell-all (like Roseanne
did--twice), Stewart's Naked Pictures of Famous People
(Rob Weisbach, $24) consists of 18 original humor pieces
on a par with Woody Allen's Without Feathers and Steve
Martin's Cruel Shoes.
As its title implies, Naked Pictures strips
various celebrities bare. In "Martha Stewart's Vagina,"
the domestic doyenne advises her readers on how to dress up
their loins with "vagina treatments" ("For
the summer you may want to go with simple horizontal pull
shades"). "Adolf Hitler: The Larry King Interview"
finds the Führer proclaiming himself a changed man in
a 1999 CNN appearance ("I get up at seven, have half
a melon, do the Jumble in the morning paper and then let the
day take me where it will"). And "Pen Pals"
imagines a correspondence between Princess Diana and Mother
Teresa. ("Any new men?" Di asks. "You're so
pretty but you always play it down.")
As an MTV talk-show host, Stewart seemed
sharper than his material, and his intelligence is evident
in chapters about Vincent van Gogh (whose tortured attempts
to chat with his brother on-line are documented in "Vincent
and Theo on AOL") and Leonardo da Vinci (whose "Lost
Notebook" contains sketches of an invention called the
Ass Comb). He's also unafraid to lampoon religion: "The
New Judaism" predicts that "by the year 2010, Jewish
life in America will have deteriorated to the point where
a Seinfeld reunion special will be a non-sweeps event."
Only a dated Gerald Ford parody falls flat.
Stewart's brutally witty book bodes well
for his upcoming gig as anchor of Comedy Central's slash-and-burn
mock newscast, The Daily Show. Naked Pictures
reveals a basic truth that's too often forgotten by the shock-for-shock's-sake
satirists of the South Park era: You've got to be smart
to be a smart-ass.