Monday, August 15, 2005

Jon Stewart IV: Worst Interviewer Ever

For some reason I feel the need to point out that Jon Stewart doesn't write the Daily Show. I think most people know this on some level, but somehow, the fact that its his mug delivering the best current events jokes on television -- with perfectly cut footage from the news channels the previous day -- makes people forget that there's a staff of writers working their asses off to get him those jokes by rehearsal (and who fine tune those jokes all the way up to his 5 p.m. taping). The only parts of the show that belong to Jon are the asides between jokes, and the parts of the interviews that don't come from the blue cards.

Lately, he's been straying from the blue cards too much, with absolutely disastrous results. Worst yet: his interview with Andre 3000 on Thursday. The rapper-producer-visionary who is the more creative half of Outkast is also proving to be a fine actor. The way he dresses, talks, moves and interacts with people is, by itself, fascinating, yet Jon managed to make his interview forced and boring.

It started out OK: Jon noticed that he had his cell phone with him, and he said that it was like his security blanket, so Jon took it away, then gave it back. Andre further explained that he uses it to write down ideas when they come to him, such as the quirks and traits of the interesting characters he meets, such as the way the water purification guy who was at his house cleared his throat at odd intervals.

At this point, the interview could have become genuinely fascinating; I would have asked more about what he's learned observing people, or who are some of the people he's observed. Jon, on the other hand, saw pure gold in the topic of water purification.
Jon:"What was the water guy doing at your house? Do you know what I think gets in water? Mouse poop?"
Andre: "I'm sure there are all kinds of poop in there, but....
Jon: "Really? What kinds of poop?"
ANdre: (hiding his annoyance) "Well I don't know. I'm not a poopologist" (mild laughter).
Jon: "For all of you young people looking for a major, poopology is a fascinating field." (forced laugher from the ditto-heads)
Jon: (sweating) "So this film looks good. In the clip we saw you really hit that guy."
(Good Jon! That's like the Chris Farley show. "Remember in that clip we just saw, where you hit that guy?That was awesome!)
Andre: (visibly annoyed)"Yes, I popped him one."
Jon: "You really looked angry"
Andre: "Yes, my character was angry."

Jon Stewart is not a skilled interviewer, possibly because his own ego is too big to really focus on another human being. Of course, he's now the main ingredient of the Daily Show brand, so he has the equivalent of tenure in the television world. Everyone from Maureen Dowd to Jonathan Alter routinely congratulates him on his brilliant one-liners, forgetting, if just for convenience sake, that they're the work of an underpaid writer.

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