Monday, December 19, 2011

My date with The Daily Show's Jon Stewart

You know how they say the camera adds 10 pounds? I think it also adds about 20cm in height.

Almost everyone I've met from television (with the exception of Bondi Vet Chris Brown, who is enormous) has been surprisingly petite. Former Australian Idol co-host James Mathieson is so tiny he is almost birdlike. Good News Week's Paul McDermott looks like a toy version of his TV self. And I've never met Matt Preston but I assume in real life he probably resembles an underfed jockey.

Which is why I shouldn't have been surprised last week when I saw Jon Stewart bound out onto the set of The Daily Show and barely clear the desk.

Still definitely would, though.

I was at a live taping of the satirical American news program inside Comedy Central's “World News Headquarters” in Manhattan's midtown-west, a cold, windy, bedraggled district perched on the banks of the Hudson River.

Getting into the hugely popular taping had been a feat in itself, taking months of organisation and an entire afternoon queuing for tickets in near-Arctic conditions. Such was my determination to see Stewart, a super-sharp (and super handsome) political comedian (whose charms I have written about in lustful tones before).

Clearly I wasn't the only crazy fan. An hour before show time a young female producer addressed the waiting crowd with the rules of the taping: no food or drink, no toilet breaks and no creepy questions for Jon.

“If it sounds creepy in your head, it's going to sound 200 times creepier in front of a studio audience,” she warned.

I immediately abandoned my marriage proposal plan.

After being hustled through a series of airport-style security gates we finally made it into the small studio. And out bounded small Jon.

According to website (god bless the unemployed, who have time to create such resources) he is just 167cm tall. This rather put a dent in my romantic fantasies, until the show began and I realised why I still love him.

Stewart's enthusiasm, both for comedy and politics, is even more obvious in person. During our taping he got so involved in his interview with a Republican strategist he extended it through the adbreak to make it available on The Daily Show website. Later, while watching a pre-recorded piece one of his “reporters” had done, he was thumping the desk with laughter.

During a Q&A session with the audience, which didn't make it on the show, one person asked Stewart why he didn't serve free pizza and soft drinks for his audience like Jerry Springer did.

Another asked him what he'd change about the American government.

“So this is the divide I have to bridge with this audience – how would you change the US political system, and where's the frickin' pizza?” he joked.

Funnily enough, that divide is exactly what The Daily Show does bridge in every episode. It blends informed political discussion with silly humour, making it the perfect blend of high and lowbrow, accessible by everyone.

Plus it has a spunky host. What more could you want?

This article was originally published in the Adelaide Sunday Mail's TV guide on December 18, 2011.


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