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As Jon Stewart Leaves The Daily Show, Highlights From His 2000 Playboy Interview

As Jon Stewart Leaves The Daily Show, Highlights From His 2000 Playboy Interview:

In March 2000, a year after he took over for Craig Kilborn as the host of The Daily Show, Jon Stewart sat down with Playboy’s David Rensin to give his personal state of the union. As Stewart closes the book on his chapter of the Daily Show story, we’ve highlighted the best of his Playboy Interview. “Let’s just say, that if it never gets any worse than this, then I’ve had one of the luckiest runs ever.”


ON WHY THE DAILY SHOW IS “THE MOST IMPORTANT SHOW EVER”…
It’s a haven, an oasis of serenity and sanity. It’s a new Statue of Liberty. It’s a bully pulpit. We have an enormous effect on the population. The power is incredible. I hadn’t planned to say anything about it, but we did a story about the peace accord in Kosovo, and the next day it happened. Coincidence? I don’t think so. I liken myself to Oprah. When I plug a book, it flies off the shelves. Where would Tuesdays with Morrie have been were it not for our recommendation? Where would Stephen King be today? We saved his career.

ON WHAT HE FINDS FUNNY ABOUT THE NEWS…
Not the news itself but how the news is delivered. The process of news. The parody is our bombastic graphics and the news song, the correspondents and their interaction with me. And by using the general structure of a news show, which we find inherently satirical, we’ve found a cheap way to get in 20 monolog-type jokes. Does that make any sense? [Pauses] Judges? Too bad: The East German says no. …

Last night we had a bumper graphic that parodied how news programs tease viewers into watching the whole show: “10:11: Hero dog saves family. 10:13: Rapist on loose. 10:15: Do you know what’s in ice cream? It could kill you. 10:17: Sports.” Or look at the pomposity of Dateline: the grandiose set, the guy sitting in his chair, then getting up and the camera moving in that slow, sweeping way, as the hose asks, “Would he escape from the ocean after eight days of drinking his own urine? When we return, the answer.” Some news magazines will report on a murder trial while a ticker at the bottom of the screen counts people’s phone-in votes for which side they think is right. “When we come back, the defense will present some evidence you won’t believe!” It’s gotten ridiculous. So we make fun of it.

ON HOW THE MEDIA SHOULD BEHAVE…
If TV thought that showing a naked girl jiggling car keys would do it — and if they could get away with it — you’d see it tonight. TV news today subverts how I think news organizations should behave. Reporting news is a huge responsibility. It has to be taken more seriousy. Bobcat Goldthwait had a great joke about the guy who videotapes the Rodney King beating. His joke was: “Put down the camera and help him!” He’s right. News isn’t a Discovery Channel documentary where you’re not supposed to feed the apes because that would be messing with the journalistic credibility of your documentary. It’s real life. News shows do, at times, affect the real news with their coverage.

An obvious example is when Bill Clinton, in his first hundred days, tried to do health care reform, among other things. But all we heard about what gays in the military. Was that his flagship issue? Did he say, “Health care reform? That can wait, as long as I get through my agenda making sure that gay people are allowed into the military.” No, but that’s how it came out because that was the most inflammatory story and the most conflict would come from it.

Same with the penis thing, the Lewinsky story. I still don’t understand where the absue of power was. You mean because he’s an older guy and he’s kind of her boss and she blew him? Like that abuse of power? Is that an abuse of the Constitution? Did he invoke some obscure article to get a blow job? The way it was characterized, you would have thought that getting a blow job from an intern was a crime against humanity, that even Adolf Eichmann would have said, “He did what? A blow job from an intern? Is he insane? My God. Think of the imbalance between their positions!” And there were the news media, over and over, trotting out the pomp and circumstance of “He lied to the American people.” Don’t they understand that we have memories? When Clarence Thomas was accused of sexual harassment, we could see that Republicans when out of their way to talk about how it wasn’t important and how Democrats went out of their way to talk about the crucian nature of proving these claims: How could any man serve on the Supreme Court when he had mentioned pubic hair and Coke? Public hair and Coke? He’s a judge! Judges aren’t human! Then, a few years later, it switches around. Democrats are defending sexual harassment and Republicans are talking about the moral imperative of treating women as equals. Don’t these people — news media and politicians alike — know that we sit home, watch this and go, “You only have situational ethics. You have no credibility with us.”

ON THE BACKLASH AGAINST CELEBRITY…
Stewart: We are a global capitalistic conglomerate. Corporation Earth. Whatever drives that bottom line drives our behavior. The more you bring in, the more you are allowed to fuck up. It’s as simple as that. When you stop bringing it in, people stop hanging around. The random glorification can also lead to random vilification. That’s the double-edged sword. People in that spotlight are more loved than they should be and more despised than they should be. That’s why they’re always complaining about being praised and then suddenly attacked.

ON WHAT KEPT HIM GOING AS A STAND-UP…
The combination of rejection and laughter. They didn’t laugh ten times, but they laughed once and I gambled that I could get them to do it again. I also realized that stand-up was about getting your face beat in, and I might as well get used to it. Comedy became like a new girlfriend. I’d wake up at four in the morning, and instead of a hard-on, I had an idea, and I wrote it down. Ninety-eight percent of them were garbage, but I was in love.

But there was no epiphany after a 28-hour cocaine binge, as I sat there, staring at my sweaty self in the mirror, thinking, No one gets out of here alive! It happened over two years. I was living a comfortable life: I made fine money working for the state of New Jersey. I had a car. I had a house. I played on the liquor store’s softball team. That could have lasted 40 years.

ON WHETHER JEWS ARE FUNNIER THAN GENTILES…
Any time you’re a group that wants desperately for others to like you so they’ll let you stick around, you have a tendency to be more amusing. When you’re in charge there’s really no need to be funny. The captain of the football team doesn’t have to be funny. Water boy? He has to be a little amusing.

My comedy is all about anything that, when I was growing up, made me feel different or disenfranchised in any way. What is comedy other than: Love me! We’re not so bad. We don’t really love the money. Love me! Height, looks and religion became the cornerstones of what I talk about. They had to, because as a kid you learn preemptive-strike comedy. If I hit someone with a tremendous joke about how small and Jewish I am, they had nowhere to go. All they could do is punch me once and leave.

ON HIS STEADFAST LOVE OF THE GARDEN STATE…
New Jersey is tremendous. Everyone’s got New Jersey wrong. What we’ve done in New Jersey is create the world’s largest, smelliest scarecrow, and we’ve kept people away from it for years just by saying, “Where’s the point that the most people who aren’t really dedicated to this state will see?” It’s the Turnpike, because the majority of people are going to be hitting the airport or heading from New York down south or up north. If we create an area of what appears to be pure, toxic genetic-mutation soup right along that road, everyone who drives by is going to go, “Holy shit!” But it’s a scarecrow. It exists solely for the purpose of driving others away.

ON WHETHER COMEDY ENHANCES THE HUMAN SPIRIT…
Oh boy. Most comedians are incredibly cynical, and the last they they’re doing is enhancing the human spirit. [Pauses] Most are feeding their own gratuity machine, ingesting something they need and popping it out the other side. If it happens to have a positive effect on people, that’s great. But I believe very few comedians got into it because the children need to laugh. They do it to feed something in themselves. Somewhere in their brains a neuron fires happily and a need is eased, like a drug. It’s almost self-medication. … There’s no Mother Teresa of comedy saying, “I’m going to go to Calcutta and live there for years in poverty and entertain the children.” There are no development deals for martyrs. We’re out there getting our swerve on.



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