July, 2001
(well, to be all technical, the magazine came out in June of 2001, because a bought a copy on my 18th birthday [June 20th] with my birthday money)

Thanks to Chaney for transcribing it.

 

Jon In Esquire Magazine

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Esquire July 2001
Ten Men: Jon Stewart
By A.J. Jacobs
Annotated by Jon Stewart

'Jon Stewart didn't want us to write this profile.'
This is b-------.
What a hatchet job. Who do you people think you oh wait...there's more.

Well, he wasn't sure anyway. I pleaded, his publicist begged, but
Stewart had to think about it, let us sweat a little. SO was he being a
bit of a diva, I ask later? No, he insists. Just insecure. Stewart says
he was worried an Esquire cover was simply too much of a good thing.
He's on a roll like no other in his thirty-seven-years, I'm 38,
although I'm told I can play 37.
and he thought maybe, just maybe, this
would kick off a backlash. "It's like the Skittles commercial," he
explains. "The Skittles rainbow comes up and all the Skittles come ring
down and you start to wonder, When are they going to run out of
Skittles?" He's got a point, I suppose. Aside from the
occasional-misstep-the lukewarm Grammy Awards gig comes to mind
Here's something sad. I thought that went well.-life has been pretty
sweet of late for this shortish Jewish guy from Jersey. Consider: He was
just profiled by 60 Minutes. ("At first I thought they were coming because of that organ door business I run out of my backyard") He says.) Excellent use of a puritanical 1He recently got married.
He and his colleagues snagged a Peabody Award. ("I was excited when I found out what it was") Way too much of the parenthetical thing's gettin' old. And he gets paid $1.5 million Lira a year to do a fake
news program-The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, on Comedy Central-that
just happens to provide the smartest comedy on TV. 

Stewart tells me about his Skittles-and-skittishness theory one night
after the show. We're in Stewart his Manhattan office-exposed brick,
gum-ball machines [Neil Diamond poster] It's actually Lenny Bruce. But
you know how we all look alike
.-and I've finally got him for a couple
hours. My notebook's out, my recorder's on, and I'm ready to hear about
his rise from high school outcast to kiddie-show puppeteer' to host of
the town
. I bet it's a fascinating sto...zzzzzzzzz) 

Only problem is, Stewart refuses to stay on topic. He has his TV on CNN,
and the man can't stop watching it over my shoulder. A newscaster us
talking about Aaron Sorkin, the creator of the West Wing, who has been
busted for psychedelic mushrooms. "Can you believe that to create a show
about government that seems relevant, the guy had to be on mushrooms?
That's f-----g pathetic." 

Stewart takes a swig of his Poland Spring, Can you swig bottled
water?
wipes his mouth. He's somewhere between bemused and mildly
pissed. Okay, um, we were discussing your childhood in Jersey...."Oh,
come on," he says. CNN is now covering the scandal over Jackass, the MTV
show accused of inspiring deadly copycat stunts. "Don't they know that
teenagers are going to do retarded things without Jackass? What about
cartoons? When you were a kid, didn't you ever put up an enormous rubber
band and then slingshot yourself on roller skates after a quickly
moving bird?" <--True Story

Stewart grabs a Wilson football from his desk and starts tossing it in
the air. Despite vigorous scrubbing, he's still got that hint of that
[weird beige] anchorman make up on his face. My actual skin color.
He's [five foot six] I'm 5'7", but I'm told I can play 5'6 and his
head is slightly oversized and he's started to gray around the temples,
but he's relatively handsome man. Cute, the girls call him. He's wearing
a blue sweatshirt with the sleeves pulled up to expose [arm hair
]
Enough. People may be eating. which is abundant enough to insulate him
though those cold New York winters.
Sexist! Would you be so concerned
about my appearance if I were a woman? A woman with a penis?


So you were saying about Jersey...The phone rings. It's Stewart's wife,
Tracey, a veterinary student. Earlier today, Tracey came to the
office and tidied up-newspapers, unopened packages, the occasional
Playboy, everything in stacks and boxes. Like any man, Stewart's got
mixed feelings about this. "You found a piece of babka on my desk?" He
says to Trac(e)y. "From Chanukah? Oh, my God! Was it good?"
Jewey Jew
a piece of Jew on my Jew?" he says to Tracey. "From Jewekah? Oh my Jew.
Was it Jewey?


Since Stewart's distracted, we'll have to get back to childhood stuff
Oh good. meantime, take note: His Daily Show is to current comedy
what Saturday Night Live was to '70s comedy-surprising, groundbreaking,
and sure to be imitated. Haven't seen it? Go up your dial, way up, a
couple clicks past the Spanish guy in the bee costume -Stewarts joke
heelarius. There, every weekday dressed in a suit and tie, Stewart
sits behind a desk in midtown New York, shuffles some papers, looks at
the camera, and completely and totally subverts the media establishment.
Think of Leno's monologue, but far more cerebral. Think H.L. Mencken,
but with hair gel
. Think Conrad Bain but with a
super?????? nipple. Think Napoleon but with attitude....for the
'90s...on acid.


Stewart kicks of the show with a series of faux headlines, This may
all be correct. I've never actually seen the program
. the best of which
take aim at the bloated Hollywood-Washington machine, such as this one,
about the Golden Globes: "Julia Roberts came accompanied by the
sun-which shines only for her." Throughout the half hour, Stewart will
throw one of his five "correspondents"-Mo Rocca, Steve Carrell, Vance
DeGeneres, Stephen Colbert, and Nancy Walls-who mock field reports as
deftly as he mocks anchors. Watch Carell do an inflammatory investigation
on the latest threat to humanity: gravity. Or watch Rocca ambush John
McCain on the campaign trail and demand he name Iceland's best musical
extort (correct answer Bjork). It was brilliant moment. Indeed, the
show's masterful through the skewed filter of comedy than through Tom
Brokaw's solemn pronouncements. And 'Stewart, like his namesake Swift,
may be his era's best truth teller
. Or like his namesake Livingston
Seagull, may be jos era's best provider of painfully obvious pop-payel
platitudes.


Despite Stewart's initial uncertainty about doing this article, I'm
starting to think he's not a diva after all. Ask his friends; they'll
tell you. Neurotic, sleep-deprived, insecure, worried he's getting old,
afflicted with a touch of the sad-clown syndrome
You nailed it!! Have
you been reading my courage journal?
Yes. But diva? Not this mench. "He
asks about every tiny detail of things that are important in your life,"
says Madeline Smithberg, executive producer of The Daily Show,"and he
isn't feigning. He knows the eating habits of everyone and 'he knows
when all the camera guys are pooping."  Because someday that will be a
question on Millionaire, and I will answer it and win.

And he does ask about my life, He asks about my my wife, Julie, my
apartment [my heath], When are you pooping? My magazine. He wants to
know whom we would have put on the cover if not him. I tell him we were
considering not having a photo, just a typewritten text. "It was me or
Helvetica?" he says. "I'm much easier to work with than Helvetica.
Helvetica demands hair, makeup, the works." No doubt about it:
Helvetica is the funniest font.Times Roman is the most dignified
font. Chicago the most enigmatic. Geneva gets laid the most.
Stewart
just knows from funny: It's effortless for him. So how'd he develop that
infallible humor sonar? Let's finally get to that childhood. Noooooooo...

Jonathan Stewart Leibowitz was born in Trenton, new Jersey in [1963].
1962. Although I'm told I can play...Enough with that joke. His father
was a physicist for RCA, his mother, an educational consultant. In high
school, Stewart wasn't exactly homecoming king. We're talking a concave
chest, skin with the topography of the Swiss Alps ouch, the whole
geeky shebang. Which, of course created the best recipe for a comedic
mind, instilling in the young suburbanite a perfectly balanced mixture
of self-loathing and the craving for love. Blah, blah.

Stewart attended William & Mary, Ouch graduated, suffered through a daytime 

bartending gig at a Mexican
restaurant, then moved to New York. Stewart himself did some heavy
drinking during this period. He also ingested chemicals not sanctioned
by the FDA a practice he insists he stopped
Mostly mercury, Beat that,
Downey Jr.
He tried stand-up for the first time at the Bitter End,
bombed, went back, got better, earned a little extra scratch doing a
kiddie show with disabled puppets, and finally scored a gig hosting his
own successful MTV talk show. Which he promptly ditched. He left behind
to take on the Big Boys-Leno and Letterman-with a syndicated talk show.
Not smart. No one watched. Things got so bad, Stewart tried to scare up
some ratings with a little stunt: One of his writers came out as the
first guest...dressed as Hitler. Stewart asked Hitler about his
upcoming project. "Czechoslovakia, Poland," said Hitler. "You never
know with me." Stewart's bosses called before the taping was over-and
they were not amused. The Hitler sketch never aired. A sentence
you'll find in almost every article in Esquire.
Soon after, Stewart
learned about the cancellation of his show from the New York Post. 

'So Even I'm no longer paying attention-and this is my life he cast
about for a while. He wrote a book titled Naked Pictures of Famous
People which he calls a "s----y Without Feathers," but which is actually
the best of all books by stand-up comics. The piece on Martha Stewart's
Vagina is worth the price of admission. He appeared semi regularly on the
ingeniously Larry Sanders Show. He popped up in handful of movies of no
major consequence. The Faculty, anyone? He was completely edited out of
the First Wives Club.' I also spent some time as a drug mule. When I
quit they gave me a gold-plated condom. I still have it up my @$$.
Sentimental value.
And then he took over on The Daily Show from
six-foot-four blonde guy named Craig Kilborn, who left behind a gift: a
phone book for Stewart to sit on. 


Stewart is now sitting behind the Daily Show desk, no phone book
necessary. When he first arrived, he had a smaller desk built, which he
says is typical Stewartian fashion, looks like furniture from a
dollhouse
Let me guess. I'm really not a tall man!! He's wearing a
beige Canali suit, a rust colored tie, and black hiking boots. His hair
is swooped back in a mini pompadour. The year is 1953. 

It's right before a taping, and Stewart's doing a free form warm-up
shtick that ranges in topic from Ebola to wacky ties. The audience is
laughing. But for some reason, the right side of the crowd is laughing
harder than the left side. Stewart picks up on this. 

"This side still can't believe they couldn't get tickets to Conan," he
shouts. "they cannot be entertained! They are unentertainable. They are
ringers from the third season of Make Me Laugh!" He walks over to the
left side," But I do want to welcome a big group from the Stoics
convention." 

To give them a jolt, Stewart resorts to slapstick. He tells the audience
that he gets into his anchor chair the same way Starsky and Hutch got in
their car. He runs toward the desk, jumps slide his ass across the
desktop and lands in the chair-exactly wrong way, wit the groin against
the chairs back. "Do you need both testicles?", he wheezes. * Note to
self: Get high after show, not before. It's affection your warm-up.


Crotch humor aside, what's The Daily Show's appeal to this
fresh-out-the-dorm audience? Ask Stewart and you'll get this answer:
"Because kids today love media analysis. I say, to them, 'Who's your
favorite celebrity?' and without fail they say, 'Howie Kurtz.'" Howard
Kurtz is the media critic for The Washington Post and perhaps the most
boring man alive.
You've obviously never asked Mark Russell what's
new.
Stewart continues: "Eminem and Howie Kurtz, but I gotta say, Howie
Kurtz more thank Eminem. An the weird thing is, they're all imitating
Howie. There was an eleven-year-old kid in Oklahoma who nearly killed
himself criticizing the Post's reporting of the Bush DWI scandal." 

The real answer is this: People are fed up wit the news. As is Stewart.
[He hates its relentlessness, its pomposity, it's onanism Did you
just slip a reference to jerking off? That is so awesome.
its faux
concern, its co-option of show-business salesmanship]--  I do like their
theme music.
-and his anger fuels his humor, giving it depth, subversive
power, and righteousness. "He has this internal barometer of what's
right and what's wrong," says Smithberg. "He has a very sensitive
justice meter. He's just way to smart for that little body." Are you
all suggesting I lack physical size?
But unlike, say, Dennis Miller,
when Stewart lashes out, it's a tempered rage. "When he tells a joke
that compromising to somebody its done with a (certain level of shame),"
says Gillian Anderson, Everything in my life is done with a certain
level of shame...
who starred opposite Stewart in 1998s mediocre
Playing By Heart. "It's kind of got a built-in apology to it." 

Stewart himself will soon be making the rounds on other talk shows,
promoting Death to Smoochy, a Danny Devito-directed movie in which he
plays a sleazy network executive. So far, his acting career hasn't
exactly achieved liftoff
Clearly you never saw my turn as Rollerblader
#1 in Mixed Nuts.
mostly because he's chosen a string of mediocre
movies. He's not as bad actor, truth to tell, though he's best when
playing some version of Jon Stewart. So what will the real Jon Stewart
be doing in fiver years? Will he grow restless as the king of basic
cable? "I'm looking to branch out into dramatic tearjerker roles,"
Stewart says. "Never having been able to pull something like that off,
even in real life, I now would like to try it. Because why would you
want to do the thing you're good at? Do the other thing, the thing
you're not good at." Typical Stewart. A no answer, slightly off topic.
But it's just clever enough that you gotta forgive the guy-and hope
that he never runs out of Skittles
.
  I promised myself I wasn't gonna
cry, but....that line is going in the courage journal.

 

 

 

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