Naked Pictures of Famous People by Jon Stewart
If that doesn’t drive visitors to this site, nothing will.
Jon Stewart is, as of this writing, one of the most well-known TV personalities in the country. In the last decade, he seems to have become an authority to an entire generation of people who distrust the media and the government, shining the bright light of comedy on the dark, unholy crevasses of our society. He’s interviewed heads of state, famous actors and actresses, and been a constant – if somewhat reluctant – model for people who haven’t yet drunk the Kool-Aid.
It’s hard to believe, then, that just over ten years ago he was a stand-up comic whose only foray into television had been a quickly-canceled MTV program. Our little Jonny has grown up so fast…. *sniff*
This book comes on the cusp of those two times in Stewart’s life – back in 1998, a year before he took over the hosting duties on The Daily Show. It’s a different style of humor for what we’re used to watching his show. It’s less self-effacing, more surreal and, in my honest opinion, not as funny.
It pains me to say, yes, but I didn’t laugh out loud a whole lot reading this book. Some authors can do it – Terry Pratchett, of course, and Dave Barry seem to be able to poke their fingers right into my funny fuse. I’ve had John Scalzi do it, Neil Gaiman from time to time, Sarah Vowell and Connie Willis are able to pull it off. But Jon Stewart? Not so much.
Don’t get me wrong – I think Stewart is a blindingly funny man. I can listen to his stand-up album, “Unleavened,” over and over again and laugh every time. And I’m surprised that I haven’t gotten any angry messages from my neighbors about my resonant cackling when I watch The Daily Show. When he talks, I laugh. He’s fantastic with inflection and timing, which unfortunately doesn’t translate so well onto the page.
Still and all, there are some chuckles to be had in this collection of short stories and mini essays. They’re certainly weird and interesting, and I think that many of them could make the transition to stage or screen with little difficulty. If I had more friends and resources, I could do some mean copyright infringement on YouTube. Let’s take a look at a few of the gems in this collection….
“The Devil and William Gates” is a chilling tale of what we all suspected to be true about the rise of Bill Gates – a deal with the devil, and the kind of lawyerly acumen that would make Gates into the richest man in the world. It’s a tale of desperation and deception – exactly what you might expect of Microsoft, right?
In “The Cult,” Jon takes a look at what might befall him if he should form a cult around his savior, Cap’n Crunch. It’s plain that he’s formed this cult for the same reason most cults get formed – for the power, the prestige and, of course, the limitless sex with your followers. I mean, I can’t say I’ve never thought of it…. The problem, of course, lies in keeping your followers under your thrall. At some point, you’re going to have to produce a savior, or there’s going to be problems. As Jon soon finds out….
“Adolph Hitler: The Larry King Interview” is good fun, and one that I’d love to see made into a video. Adolph Hitler – yes, the Adolph Hitler – reveals that he’s been alive all this time, doing some thinking and getting his priorities in order. And now he’s ready to come back to the world, with a book to push. Who better to help him publicly atone than Larry King?
In “The New Judaism,” Jon outlines a more modern approach for the more modern Jew. Why pray to a distant and unresponsive God when you can pray to a far more genial Uncle Pete? With a new God, a new mascot and greatly simplified rules (“Ass, gas or grass, nobody rides for free; and Be cool.”), the New Judaism is what the world has been waiting for. At least the Jewish world. A very small, extremely non-traditional part of it, anyway.
Finally, there’s “Revenge is a Dish Best Served Cold,” the secret dream of every kid who was ever picked on, put down and pushed around in high school. Imagine a lifetime of bitterness, anger and Evil Scientist urges coming to bear on those who had been such a bane to your existence! Imagine what havok you could wreak with a horrible, unimaginably awful Creature at your beck and call. Yes, you would get your revenge and those who taunted you would pay – PAY!!
Just don’t count out the competition.
It’s an amusing book, and good in short bites. It makes me wish that Stewart were a funnier writer than he is. I suppose I’ll just have to be happy with loving him on television.
The history of the Jewish people has been described in many scholarly manuscripts as, “The shit end of the stick.”
-Jon Stewart, “The New Judaism,” Naked Pictures of Famous People