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CNN Larry King Live

Interview With Jon Stewart

Aired March 22, 2002 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, Jon Stewart. The man claims he will do anything to get a network TV gig. Rumor said he might replace Letterman on "Lateshow." Then Letterman stays!

So what's a daily show guy to do to connect beyond basis cable? We're going to find out next on LARRY KING LIVE.

He's appeared with us many times, but never in the angry mood he's in tonight. A man who saw stardom flip through his fingers.

JON STEWART, "THE DAILY SHOW": It turns out now I have to fight Greg Brady.


I have to box him.

KING: That's what's left.

STEWART: That's how you get those jobs. They're going to start ranking them like the WTA.

KING: The truth. During the moments when they were waiting, that Letterman might leave. I can tell you, OK. I'm going to break some news to you.

STEWART: Please.

KING: No. Because I don't deal in that kind of stuff.

STEWART: You're coming out, aren't you?

KING: No! This is a fact I'm about to give you. Had Letterman...


KING: ... left, you would have been called the next day by CBS to go into that slot. That's a fact. I'm not going to tell you where I got it from.

STEWART: Where do you get that from? Here's what I heard --

KING: Let's put it that way. Say nothing, that's the truth. STEWART: I heard, if Letterman leaves, I go right into "Diagnosis Murder." That's what I heard. But I don't have the sources you have.

KING: Suppose ABC said, look, "Nightline" is going to be history, it is regrettable, we want you.

STEWART: In this pretend world you have created? How tall am I in this pretend world?

KING: Would you take that gig?

STEWART: Well, I'm not a crazy person. If someone said there's a network that wants to pay you this amount of money to do what you do, yes, I'm not insane.

KING: Therefore, were you up during that -- were you hoping that Letterman left? Because you must have heard rumors that -- I'm telling you it's a fact.

STEWART: But I didn't know that at the time. If I had known that, hell, yes, I would have been open. I would have gone over there and put a little flaming poop on their doorstep thinking maybe we should get out of here. But nobody told me.

KING: You had heard possible rumors that you would be considered --

STEWART: I hear rumors all the time of all kinds of things. That, cancellations, all kinds of rumors. Billy Joel is outside, he wants to kick your ass. I hear all kinds of rumors.



STEWART: I am just saying -- but I guess I didn't feel as vested in it because I sort of didn't feel like that -- I didn't have the sense of being next in line, like you do at the DMV.

KING: You are. You are next in line.

STEWART: OK. See, I'm not talking to the people. Who are you talking to? Wait a minute, are you talking to the vice president of show business?

KING: I know people.

STEWART: You do know people.

KING: I do know some people.

STEWART: I know you know people.

KING: Do you think Bill Maher is going to lose his?

STEWART: Oh, God, I don't know. I don't know people. You know people. I don't know people.

KING: You don't know people.

STEWART: I had no idea there was a Seinfeld curse. Nobody tells me anything. I thought this whole Bob Patterson thing sounded like a good idea. I don't even know show business. When they said, "Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire." I thought, nobody's going to want to do that.

KING: Would you box? Would you take a Fox gig?

STEWART: Look at me.

KING: So put in a guy your size.

STEWART: You know how many layers I'm wearing just to appear this thick?

KING: Who won the Debonadero -- who won the Danny Bonaduce fight?

STEWART: Bonaduce.

KING: OK. You're about the same size as him. Why don't you now meet him?

STEWART: But I haven't had the whole -- the man's been in prison. I mean, you know -- you know what I mean?

KING: That's true you haven't had the background.

STEWART: Yes. I had, you know, bar mitzvah skills. I can't -- what am I going to do to him? Bonaduce, did you see what he did to Greg Brady?

KING: I didn't see the fight.

STEWART: Oh my God!

KING: I have no interest in that. What was it like? Did you watch those fights?

STEWART: I watched tapes of it. We had to watch it for the show.


STEWART: I say, trying to sound presentable and respectable.

KING: What did you make of the whole Fox thing?

STEWART: Let them eat cake, bread and circuses, that's what I make of it. Who can we humiliate now? I feel badly for the folks that -- not only that, but here's the worst part about the celebrity boxing, if I may. I know that you and I are both sportsmen, so we understand this. KING: Big fans.

STEWART: Many of the boxers had that on their backs. You know, some of the boxers have now, it's like an advertisement that's stenciled on their backs. And I know you agree with this, commercialization is ruining celebrity boxing. Don't you think?


KING: That's right.

STEWART: It's cheapening it.

KING: : It's cheapening it.

STEWART: Celebrity boxing used to be -- you know, in the old days.


KING: That's right.

STEWART: When Peter Lamangiello (ph) would face off against Maynard J. Krebs.

KING: You remember the Crosby-Senatra in the '40s? What about that was.

STEWART: In the '40s? How old do you think I am?

KING: That was a legendary fight, it's been on ESPN. Crosby vs, Sinatra. It was a biggie, you missed it.

STEWART: Stop yanking me, stop yanking me. Anything before 1960, I'm lost. I got nothing.

KING: OK. Here WOODRUFF: go. Let's run down some things, Jon. As we always like to do, we will be taking your phone calls for --

STEWART: And I can tell you they're --

KING: They're lighting up. One of the most brilliant people I know. Are you happy with Comedy Central?

STEWART: They're great. Let me tell you something, the atmosphere over there, they really let you be creative. They let you -- if you show them to a certain extent that you know what you're doing, they let you be. They take care of the real estate, they take care of the business stuff and they let you create. It's really a pretty marvelous --

KING: No stifling, then?

STEWART: No. Every now and again, like anything else, you know, standards and practices will call and go, you know, that's a curse word. All right, we won't say that.

KING: But you can on cable technically say a curse word? Couldn't you?

STEWART: I think on -- on our kind of cable.

KING: Basic, maybe you can't.

STEWART: You still get bleeped.

KING: OK. All right, what do you make of -- let's run down some things in the news.

STEWART: Let's bring it.

KING: You're really into this?

STEWART: I'm ready.

KING: OK. Homeland security and the color coded concept of Tom Ridge's?

STEWART: I love the color coded concept of homeland security. I like to wear clothes that match my level of dread. So if, let's say, I'm feeling on high alert. I'll wear the red, I'll wear the high alert outfit and throw in maybe a little bit of moderate safety concern, just in the cuffs. Just to show people I can go two ways.


I don't understand how the color coded somehow doesn't muddle it in the same way that the other alert muddled it.

KING: Of course, what do you do if you get a green? Let's say they announce tomorrow it's a green.

STEWART: Oh, man. Naked through the streets. That's low, right?

KING: I don't know. I didn't follow the chart.

STEWART: Now, it was to simplify things. Here's the bad part about it. The chart also matches the colors of the stoplights. So when you're walking down the street, you're thinking green, good, we're at -- my God, it's red! Then you turn back, it's green again!


But I do think that definitely, boy, you can see the six months of work in that program. Any time you're coming up with a national security program and you can pick one color a month, well, clearly you're doing your work.

KING: So what do you think of Tom Ridge in general, how he's doing?

STEWART: I think he's certainly got the demeanor for it.

KING: Looks good.

STEWART: He seems very serious. I haven't seen him smile in the time he's been our national -- you don't want a national security -- you don't want Yakoff Smirnoff there. You don't want Charlie Calis (ph). You want a guy that looks serious. He looks serious.

KING: That's right. He is a Marine.

STEWART: He looks, actually, if I may say, sad. Like maybe he didn't want this job.

KING: Really?

STEWART: Seems like it.

KING: Heard he was governor of Pennsylvania.

STEWART: That's a very good job. But it seems like whenever he comes out, he doesn't relish the whole task of what he has to do.

KING: We haven't had you on since 9/11.

STEWART: But that's not due to anything -- you're not saying that I'm a terrorist of any kind?

KING: No, no. But on a serious note, where were you that morning?

STEWART: I was in my apartment. My wife and I -- I don't even like to talk about it, quite frankly. We heard the first plane go right above our apartment.

KING: You live near it?

STEWART: Yes. And we heard the impact.

KING: There are now people saying that we overly -- we were too patriotic. Do you buy any of that, people saying --

STEWART: What's the measurement? How do you measure that?

KING: I don't know.

STEWART: Like rain?

KING: There are some critics who say --

STEWART: Right, well there are some critics, you know --

KING: Who say anything.

STEWART: There was a whole group in San Diego who wore Nikes and purple shrouds and castrated themselves and killed themselves, because they thought they'd get on a spaceship. There are people who pretty much think anything. But I don't know what overly, I think it was an outpouring -- we hear often that dissenting voices have not been heard since September 11. And that's been a criticism that those voices have not been encouraged, but my feeling is that those voices haven't resonated. I honestly heard a dissenting voice. I don't think they have been curtailed. I feel that the general climate of the country, those voices have not resonated.

KING: There is no major figure who has come out against the action in Afghanistan, right?

STEWART: But even if they had, plenty of people have said we shouldn't be in Afghanistan. Plenty of people have said, it is not that we don't realize there have been some civilian casualties or that there is a certain air of anti-American sentiment over their based on whatever hegemony they think we have, imperialism, colonialism. Whatever they think it is, but those voices don't seem to resonate. It's not that we don't hear them. I -- right now, I don't buy it. I just don't. I think, as a matter of fact, I think -- maybe I'm too close to it. But I have not heard a convincing argument that we're doing anything terribly wrong in the prosecution of the war up until this point.

KING: Me neither. Jon Stewart, by the way he is going to co- star in a new film directed by Danny Devito and Robin Williams "Called Death to Smoochie." We may see a clip from it later.

STEWART: Might not.

KING: It will open in move theaters nationwide on March 29th. Back with Jon Stewart after this.


STEWART: I do want to address some of the "Late Night" rumors that are out there. There are some rumors that Dave will leave CBS, and people kind of want to know if I would be interested in taking that spot or maybe Dave doesn't, and maybe I'll take the spot at ABC. But I just want to clarify about those rumors, yes, I would. I would do -- I would do that one. I would do Dave, Leno, Conan, anybody who wants to leave. Willard Scott, you tired of waving at old people? I'll take that. I'll do whatever you...




STEWART: Cheney also took the time to visit our soldiers, including a VIP tour of aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis off the coast of Oman. Onboard the carrier, he was issued a special VP vest. Oh, look at that. Says VP on it.

Let me get this straight. Cheney was sequestered in an underground bunker for two months straight so that we could keep him safe. Now we've got him prancing around on the deck of an aircraft carrier in the Gulf of Oman with a giant VP on his chest! What are you doing?


KING: This is called material writing itself for you, right?

STEWART: It does. Don't you want to bring a guy -- you want to bring him in slowly into the danger zone? What happened to the shadow government?

KING: What do you make of that shadow government?

STEWART: He was the top dog. I would assume the vice president is your top dog in a shadow government. He's living under a mountain. And then they decide, you know what, people are getting a little antsy about where he is, let's fly him over to the Middle East. Show them we're not scared of anything. I mean, you put him from no danger into imminent danger. Let him go to a state funeral. Let him go -- you know what I mean, break him in slowly. Let him do a rivet at a Wal- Mart. Let him do something, but don't throw him immediately into the front.

KING: Do you feel better knowing we have a shadow government, that we have hidden places like below Memphis? Does that give you comfort?

STEWART: Absolutely. Any time that you know that if anything happens to our central government, the vice secretary of agriculture is living underneath a mountain with some assistance...

KING: You'll get beets.

STEWART: That's what I'm saying, because you know our government goes away, meat will still be inspected, to a certain extent. Maybe not pork, maybe they are just going with beef, maybe chicken, maybe turkey, maybe they pick one meat. It is a shadow government.

KING: But you will get something.

STEWART: I guess is it's a shadow puppet government. My guess is they're sitting down there just doing this all day on the wall. They've got nothing.

KING: What do you make of the student visas given to the pilots, the dead pilots?

STEWART: Even dead terrorists have a right to an education, don't you think?

KING: I never thought of it. That's a good way to put it. This is a great country.

STEWART: The student loan people, that's like lo-jack. Those people in a highly sophisticated bunker with -- they'll find you. You get plastic surgery, you change your identity, you move out of the country, change your...

KING: You owe $3,000.

STEWART: Right. Then, as soon as you open up your mail again, you go in the witness protection program. You open up, still, honestly, sir, you went to suni (ph) purchase. You do owe us this money. Why can't you use their technology? Why can't you use their people? Immigration and Naturalization Service is just a -- hey, this Hitler guy, he seems all right. Adolf? What do you think?


KING: Yeah.

STEWART: Should we approve? Sure, why not? I mean, I don't understand who is working there.

KING: Airport security. Have you been bothered and what do you think of it? John Dingell, the famed congressman, had to drop his trousers.

STEWART: Yes. And which is...

KING: Body search women.

STEWART: ... as you know, is how the Dingell got its name. When you drop your pants, it is now considered officially the Dingell. So when you go to the airport now, they will say to you, sir, I'm afraid I'm going to have to see the Dingell.


KING: Or I'm going to Dingell you.

STEWART: Or I'm going to Dingell you. It's become the vernacular.

KING: Is it necessary or is it just part of the nomenclature?

STEWART: Who knows? I feel safer with a higher legal of security than a not higher level of security. And the level of security that it used to be was the lowest level of security you could have. I don't think they would have a color yet invented for how low a level of security airports used to have.

Let me put it this way. I took one of their x-ray machines and they didn't realize it. When you used to go in there, they have better security at the Orange Julius at the mall. You know, they had nothing. Those people weren't even paying attention. They were asleep half the time. It was a terrible situation. So now, the idea that you can get an upgrade in that, I'm completely for it. If I have to be frisked to achieve that level of security, God bless you.

KING: But Wayne LePerrier (ph) of the National Rifle Association slammed security, saying no one is any safer. We know it. Everyone is delayed, defiled and demeaned.

STEWART: A: I always love alliteration, you know that. Big fan. Are we any safer? Who knows. I mean, for a guy like that to just say no one's any safer, I don't know what you base that on. I'm happy that that's what he thinks. But...

KING: I would say you can assume you're a little safer if a guy is standing with a machine gun at the entry gate.

STEWART: I assume that we're a little bit safer in that now the people are looking this way at the x-ray machine screen as opposed to this way at the friend that they had eight beers with last night. So I'm assuming that just by turning their head this way, we're a little bit better off.

KING: Your reaction, Jon, to the axis of evil concept. Good choice of words, bad choice of words?

STEWART: I am of the mindset, I mean, look, I remember when Khomeini died and they showed the funeral procession. And I come from a long tradition of sickly people who pass away. So I've been to my share of funerals.

And they are typically sad and relatively reserved events, and then afterwards you have a nosh and people tell some funny stories. But typically, it is kind of slow.

Tuning in to the Khomeini funeral, to see the rabid, fervent -- and this was a funeral. This was not a celebration. I realized, OK, I don't understand this land. I don't understand this country. So are they evil as people? Probably not. Am I afraid of them? Yes. Do I feel better that the president uses terms of strength in dealing with them? Absolutely. But I think he should have separated the government from the people, I think more than anything else.

KING: You don't want to give the impression that the guy on the street in Iran is evil.

STEWART: I have barely traveled through Pennsylvania. To ask me about Iran, North Korea or anything else, I can't tell you. The only way I learn geography is when we bomb a country, quite frankly.

KING: What do you make of...

STEWART: What if we bombed -- you know what? Wouldn't that be an interesting way for kids to study. Let's say they have a geography test and they call up and go, I have got to learn a lot about Canada, but I know very little. What if we were to bomb them? Because then you get all the maps and all the things.

KING: Bomb Canada, you mean?

STEWART: Yes. I'm not recommending it. I'm just saying that it would be a wonderful way to learn about their geography. In the same way that -- did you know where Peshawar was before we started bombing over there?

KING: It's true. Good point. STEWART: That's what I'm saying. Islamabad, Peshawar, Kabul, I can pick them out on a map now, but only after we bomb. So my sense is if I have a test, I may want to place a call.

KING: And it is worth it for a couple of people.

STEWART: Red team go. That's all I'm saying.

KING: We'll be back with Jon Stewart. We will be including your phone calls. He's our guest for the full hour. On the weekend, by the way, in our repeat shows, both nights, Saturday and Sunday, a weekend with Dr. Phil. You know Dr. Phil?

STEWART: Absolutely.

KING: The man has -- you don't know Dr. Phil?

STEWART: No, I know Dr. Phil. He tells it like it is.

KING: That's right.

STEWART: I live my whole life through he and Oprah. As a matter of fact, I'm going to jot that down in my courage journal. May I borrow your pen?

KING: Yes. We'll be back with more or Stewart after this.


JAY LENO, HOST: Here's some upsetting news. Remember that story two days ago about Billy Bob Thornton and Angelina Jolie adopting the tiny Cambodian baby? Remember this story? It was in "People" magazine. I love this story. Well, the adoption has been on hold because the INS won't give the baby a visa. Too bad they didn't name the baby Mohamed Atta. Then he could have slid right in.




STEWART: Look, I've really got to go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Need to spread your arms. We're going to have to do this.

STEWART: I've really got to go. You know what...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Security, security, can I get some backup over here?

STEWART: I got to go to the thing. Will you please let me -- oh, they're big. That's big. That's very big. OK, no. That's -- is that your thumb?



STEWART: Always nice to do a commercial for Crunch Gymnasium during the Grammys.

KING: Did you enjoy doing that?

STEWART: Did it look like I enjoyed it?

KING: No, it didn't.

STEWART: Can I tell you something else? They don't call. They don't write, neither one of them.

KING: You didn't have a good time?

STEWART: No, I did have a good time. It's a blast because I don't get to go to concerts anymore. So, to go there and to be able to see U2 and Mary J. Blige. Have you ever had Mary J. Blige on?


STEWART: She wailed on that show. Like, I mean, she's a real...

KING: You're a fan of music, right?

STEWART: Oh, yes.

KING: You're into all the music. You know the songs on the charts.

STEWART: The songs on the charts.

KING: I don't know any song on the charts.

STEWART: I know 23 skidoo. I'm with the kids.

KING: No, no. You read "Billboard." You know the acts.

STEWART: No, I don't read the "Billboard." I listen to the radio.

KING: Rock guys?

STEWART: The rock guys, the morning zoo. The rock, that sort of thing. The rap, it all rhymes. It's just a difference of the beat.

I had a tip for you before we got any further. I got a stock tip.

KING: A horse?

STEWART: It's a stock tip that I think -- and I know we're on the air and all that. An energy concern out of Houston, Enron. I really think it's going to be a mover. KING: It's at 62 cents.

STEWART: It's like six cents. What do you got, a 10? You got a 10 on you? You could be vice president. You got a 20? You can have the whole thing. I may buy it and move it to the Jersey shore, just for kicks, just for gags.

KING: What did you make of that whole thing?

STEWART: Of Enron?

KING: Yes.

STEWART: I made of evil people who took money from their workers and stole it. And then after they stole it, went I don't know what happened. I stole money.

I mean, they paid -- Arthur Andersen is the consulting firm for Enron and the accounting firm. So they have a $100 million consulting contract, Arthur Andersen does. Arthur Andersen is paid $100 million to figure out ways to outsmart Arthur Andersen. That's the best gig you could have in the business. You could just call downstairs and go, hey, if I was going to hide some money in, I don't know, let's say, Virgin Gorda, would you find that? All right, thanks, pal. It's good. We can do it.

I mean, it's crazy. It's an insular world. These guys should go to jail, jail, not jail, not white-guy jail, not tennis jail, jail- jail, with guys that want to kiss them.

KING: This is not pure capitalism?

STEWART: No. Here's what I don't understand about, you know, when we talk about returning character to the public arena or we talk about character to capitalism. Why is greed not considered a vice as lust is? I mean, lust is prosecuted with such wonderful aplomb.

KING: Clinton had lust.

STEWART: Clinton had lust and barely greed. I mean, he had Arkansas greed. I could get $10,000 from that Whitewater, you think? And all I got to give you is $9,000? I could make $1,000? All righty. Let's do it. He had dopey greed. These guys have greed- greed. They have S&L greed. They have GNP of a country greed. I don't understand why greed is not considered...

KING: Greed is so American.

STEWART: But it's not. Pathological greed is not, yes. The ideal to better yourself, the ideal to support your family and to provide them with a better life. Yes, that is absolutely American. But the idea that this pathological greed can take hold, and they -- it's like campaign finance reform. How can you allow legislatures to make laws governing elections? That doesn't make any sense.

KING: Because it's the only place they're making laws. STEWART: If you're going to create a special prosecutor to investigate a sexual crime, how can you not create an independent board...

KING: To set up...

STEWART: To set up -- how can you trust -- what's the incumbency rate now, 98 percent? All this is, campaign finance reform will be a revolutionary proposal in the ways that Congress gets around it...

KING: It passed.

STEWART: ... because they're just going to find other ways. They're never going to not protect themselves.

KING: But you can't rule yourself?


KING: What do you make of Al Gore shaving off the beard? Do you think that's now serious?

STEWART: What an astute political move on his part six months after a terrorist attack by extremists Islamic fundamentalists, to grow the beard in the first place. You know, that's really the move right there. Hey, you know what's really hot right now? Islamic fundamentalism. Maybe I should go with that look. That might really help me in America in my political career. Perhaps I'll grow it really long and wear what I like to call a tashiki.

I don't know. I don't think he can be saved at this point. It's a shame. I think he had a wonderful heart. I think it became a question of wanting it too badly and people rejecting the neediness of it, I mean, on an emotional level.

KING: But he got more votes.

STEWART: Yes, and he did win. You know. Here's the thing though. Did he win? I don't know.

KING: But more people voted for him.

STEWART: I think statistically it got to a point where you just didn't know if he won. I mean, electoral college wise, I don't think we'll ever know who won Florida. I just don't think we will. But I do think that the real issue out of all this is minority disenfranchisement. I do believe that that's a problem still that, unfortunately, loses momentum in terms of being addressed. But I think that's the actual issue from that election.

KING: We're going to take a break. And when we come back, we're going to include your phone calls.

STEWART: I'm fired, aren't I? You just fired me. I just saw that.

KING: What do you mean?

STEWART: I'm fired. You're firing me.

KING: You're on for the whole hour.

STEWART: Did you know that AOL Time Warner owns me, or you told me that, I guess.

KING: I asked who owns Comedy Central and you said Viacom and AOL Time Warner. That means we own you.

STEWART: Yes. You're part owner of me.

KING: Sit! Stay! We'll be right back with more of Jon Stewart and your phone calls. Don't go away. Stay!


DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST: Al Gore, I mean, get ready. You know, it looks like Al Gore is going to take another run at it because he had the -- you know he got fat. He got huge. He just...


LETTERMAN: The poor guy ballooned. And then trying to, I guess, disguise the weight, he grew a beard, you know, hoping to call a little less attention to himself. But now, he's shaved the beard because he thinks it will help him have political success. So he has shaved his beard. And I'm thinking, well, it could be because, you know, it's working for Janet Reno.




STEWART: I don't want to give anything away about the Oscars this year, but, oh, what the heck, "A Beautiful Mind" wins best picture. You are probably saying, how do you know that? I'm the one who votes. I'm the one who decides. They always say, oh, we poll everybody. It's me. I usually sit down with a little bottle of Bailey's Irish cream and go, ah, "A Beautiful Mind."


KING: All right. We're back with Jon Stewart. We're going to go to your phone calls. Oh, I must ask, were you at the Liza wedding?

STEWART: Was I there? No, I didn't realize it was real. I thought it was one of those like Tony and Tina's wedding.


KING: You thought it was a play.

STEWART: I thought they do it every Sunday. But it seemed like a very reasonable event.

KING: Great times. She was with us and...

STEWART: I don't know where they're ever going to find female impersonators to re-create that wedding. It really is, I mean, it's made for an ice show. You got to admit, the characters are already in Vegas, I'm sure they're charting out the ice show. Michael Jackson skates in as Elizabeth Taylor skates off, and Minnelli skates on. Claudia Cardinale and Lollobrigida, my God, they're doing a double lutz! I didn't know any of those people were still around. I mean, Gina Lollobrigida?

KING: New York City, hello, for Jon Stewart.

CALLER: Hi, Jon. I'd like to know who do you think the scariest person in the current United States government is?

KING: Scary. Does anyone scare you in this country? Interesting choice of words.

STEWART: I always assume that the scariest people are the ones that we don't know about. You never know the scariest guy. Yeah, that there's always a guy who -- it's the "Wizard of Oz" thing. Whoever is -- like, there's got to be a guy...

KING: Behind the curtain.

STEWART: Like the scariest guy in the Defense Department is probably Wolfowitz. You don't really know about Wolfowitz. Rummy's out there doing the thing. You know, hey, kids, what's going on, prosecuting the war. He's Durante, you know what I mean? But Wolfowitz is down in the basement drawing up the plans. He's the guy they got to be afraid. What if a bomb sucked all the air out of a bunker? Excellent!

KING: San Diego for Jon Stewart. Hello.

CALLER: Hello, Mr. Stewart, can you tell me who...

STEWART: Mr. Stewart. Respect.

CALLER: ... your comedic influence are? Perhaps George Carlin or Richard Pryor.

KING: Comedic influences on you.

STEWART: She just did it, Carlin and Pryor.

KING: She hit it on the head?

STEWART: She just named the two top dogs. Those are the two top dogs of comedy. Carlin, Pryor I think created the modern comedy that we deal with.

KING: So she hit it on the head? STEWART: I think so. I mean, I don't -- when I was a kid, I didn't think about becoming a comedian, so I don't have those kinds of memories.

KING: You didn't?

STEWART: No, I didn't...

KING: You weren't a funny kid?

STEWART: I don't think I was morose. I was reasonably -- I mean...

KING: No, I mean, were you a joke teller? Were you the life of the party?

STEWART: I was a goofball. I was obnoxious more than anything else. But I wasn't -- there weren't people going, "I'll tell you what, if you step on the stage, it's going to be magic."

KING: What did you think you wanted to be?

STEWART: I wanted to be an athlete. I wanted to play ball. But I realized I have no skills. No skills.

KING: That's the word.

STEWART: But Carlin, you know, I love old Lenny Bruce stuff. Steve Martin kills me. The newer guys, Quinn, Colin Quinn, this guy Dave Atell who works over at the channel. I mean, you know.

KING: Seen Louis Black?

STEWART: Letterman. Lou Black is great.

KING: He's on your show.

STEWART: Can I tell you something, though? See him live. Go see him live doing a show.

KING: Works our gala. Twice for the Larry King Cardio Foundation where you're going to work.

STEWART: Well, I -- he -- I eat with him.

KING: Funny!

STEWART: He's very funny. He's a good man too.

KING: Good man.

STEWART: Yeah, he's a good guy.

KING: Lubbock, Texas for Jon Stewart. Hello.

CALLER: Hi, Jon. STEWART: In Lubbock, may I say this? I have been to the prairie dog museum. Really wonderful.

CALLER: Yeah, it's great, isn't it?

STEWART: Have you been?

CALLER: Not yet.

STEWART: How long have you lived there?

CALLER: Three years, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) student.

STEWART: I was there a day and a half and I went to the prairie dog museum.

KING: Wait a minute, wait a minute, are you putting me on?

STEWART: No! I went to the prairie dog...

KING: What's a prairie dog museum?

CALLER: It's really there.

STEWART: It's a museum about prairie dogs.

KING: What...

STEWART: Not a big museum. Let's face facts. Very small museum. You should go. And also, the Buddy Holly statue.

CALLER: Yeah, I have seen that.

STEWART: You did 50 percent of Lubbock, Texas. You have to do 100!

KING: What's your question?

CALLER: My question is, following your Peabody award for your coverage of the 2000 elections, which I thought was great, did you sense any bitterness or jealously from legitimate news reporters covering the event?

STEWART: Amanpour. Amanpour was a little edgy.

KING: Christiane was?

STEWART: She was giving me a little bit of this, a little bit of eyeball. "See you in Pakistan, little man," she kept saying to me. See you on the flip side, my brother.

No, nobody really -- nobody talks to me. The legitimate journalists don't ever really talk to me.

KING: Staten Island, New York. Hello.

CALLER: Hi, Jon. How are you.

STEWART: I'm very good. Thank you. How are you?

CALLER: I'm good, thank you. How hard was it for you to get back on track after 9/11?

STEWART: Very, very tough.

CALLER: Because I see that you were very upset.

KING: You said that you don't like to talk about it, and we understand that.

STEWART: It was very upsetting, obviously.

KING: The first time you had to be funny was when? You took off a while. Did you -- or did you...

STEWART: We were gone -- look, I feel awful about saying it, because everybody talked about, oh, when are the late night guys going to come back to work. We were the last people to come back to work. I mean, everybody else basically went to work from that moment, quite frankly. I mean, people didn't have the luxury of taking off like we did. I mean, I was down for a week, I think.

KING: But do you remember the first time that you had to go on a stage, wherever it was, after 9/11 and be funny?

STEWART: It was at the show, and it was in the attempt to clear the air for myself and for our staff and for all that, our first night back.

KING: When is that thin line when it became OK to do an Osama bin Laden joke? Who makes that law and when?

STEWART: Yeah. It's the same principle that's always used, and it's intuitive. And sometimes you're right and sometimes you're wrong. But that's -- it lives in the ether. It doesn't live....

KING: There's no hard rule, two months.

STEWART: ... in the concrete world. Yeah, I don't think it's an objective reality. I think it's, you know, one man's meat is another man's really lame, crass attempt at a joke.

KING: Were you a fan of the Winter Olympics?

STEWART: Was I a fan? No. Not really.


STEWART: Yeah, I mean, the Winter Olympics to me, it was the prep school kid Olympics. Like my school, we don't have skiing and luge. I mean, there's nothing...

KING: We didn't luge as kids. Did you luge as a kid? STEWART: I sledded. I didn't know it was luging. Exactly. I sledded, but when I sled, I protect the genitals. The luge people, they do not. That's the difference. That's what makes them an Olympian and me a sledder.

KING: That's right.

STEWART: Genital protection. It's all about the genital protection.

KING: That's right.

STEWART: But the thing about the Olympics in the winter is, they seem like not -- it seems like, I dare you to go down that. I'm not going down that. I double dare you. Have a shot. OK, I'll do it. And they go. But it's not -- it's prep school. You don't see like the great stories of like the guy from Kenya that's strapped like rubber that he found on the side of the road to his feet and that's how he learned how to run and he became a marathoner. These were kids like, I was at Exeter and I decided that I was bored with lacrosse. So I thought I'd ski jump. What are you going to do? It's like, you know, where are you going to -- you know how much a ski lift ticket is? It's crazy.

KING: We'll be right back with more of Jon Stewart. Don't go away.


DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST: How many of you attended Liza Minnelli's wedding? I know the members of the band were there. Listen to this guest list, here's a partial guest list: Donny Osmond, David Hasselhoff, Joan Collins, Robert Goulet. I'm telling you, this was not a wedding, this was an episode of "Love Boat."




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When Stevie Wonder took the stage at the presidential gala last Sunday, President Bush waved to him. Realizing his faux pas, an embarrassed Bush turned to his wife Laura and said, "oh, my God, do you think he saw that?"


KING: They don't stop. With Jon Stewart, Valiant, Oklahoma. Hello. What a name for a city. Hello.

CALLER: Yes, I want to tell Larry, thanks for giving little people a voice on national television. And I want to ask Jon Stewart if he does get the late night spot, he'd have Chris Strickland be his first musical guest.

KING: Who?


CALLER: Chris Strickland.

KING: Chris Strickland.


KING: We don't know him.

STEWART: I'm not that hip.

KING: But we're happy to have young, small people on the show. Was he referring to you?

STEWART: Did he mean small like me small? Oh, OK, I wasn't sure.

KING: St. Louis, hello.

STEWART: Geez, I thought I was sitting up.

KING: St. Louis, hello.

CALLER: Hello. I just want to say that I love Jon Stewart.

KING: Me, too.

CALLER: And I always want to know why we never hear anything personal about him.

KING: All right, let's find out. Good question, ma'am.

STEWART: I'm animatronic.

KING: Are you married? Yes.

STEWART: I am married.

KING: How long?

STEWART: Boy, you'd have to ask her. No, I've been married almost two years, and she's great.

KING: Children?

STEWART: No. Dogs. We have dogs. OK. You want to know something personal? Two dogs. Here's my two dogs.

KING: All right, let's show them.

STEWART: You want to throw that out there. There's Monkey and Chomsky (ph).

KING: Monkey and Chomsky (ph). STEWART: Monkey, Chomsky (ph).

KING: How did you meet your wife?

STEWART: She's in the middle there. She's very -- no. I sent away.

KING: Come on.

STEWART: It was just when the Eastern bloc fell. And they were looking for a way out.

KING: A mail order bride!

STEWART: Well, we don't like to call it that around the house. You know, when we're giggling with the moderate amount of English that she knows. No, it happened to be a blind date, set up by someone I didn't know. It was a blind date set up by somebody I did not know.

KING: How could that be?

STEWART: A passer-by. Said, go. No. I was shooting something in lower Manhattan, and a woman that was working on the set said, "I know this girl who I think you would very much like." And the way she described her was in such glowing terms, I thought, well, I'd be a jackass not to go out with this woman. So I called her. And what happened was, I wrote her number on a dollar bill. And this was when I still smoked, so I went and bought cigarettes with the thing.

KING: So you lost the number.

STEWART: I lost her number. So I didn't call for a while. But then I got -- you know how they used to give out like cast sheets where they have everybody's phone number who worked on the set, and I got the number there, because she was the roommate of the girl. And then I called.

KING: Was it clicked right away?

STEWART: Isn't this the most amazing -- it's going to be a movie.

KING: Did it click right away? Did it click right away?

STEWART: Oh, yeah. I mean, we were hammered. We woke up, and that was it. I mean, it was -- no. It was -- you know what it is? When you know you really think someone's nice. But I have a tendency when I'm nervous to talk a lot, and she has a tendency when she's nervous not to talk.

KING: So it was a monologue.

STEWART: Well, it was -- it was a lot of like me at dinner just talking a lot and going, this girl hates me, this girl hates me, this girl hates me. And then she -- I got a couple of pops in her, and then she pa-pa-pa, and I was thinking, this girl... KING: Do you want to have a large family?

STEWART: We would like to have kids. We want to have Angelina Jolie and Billy Bob Thornton are just going to bring a bunch back for all of us. They're just going to put them all on a truck. No, we would like to have kids.

KING: Tell me about "Death to Smoochy."

STEWART: "Death to Smoochy" is a film....


STEWART: Yeah, I think -- it was written by this really, really great, funny writer Adam Reznick, who is a great guy, worked at Letterman and worked with us on "Sanders." Really good guy. Danny DeVito directed it. Like, I don't really know what to say about it. I actually haven't seen it.

KING: The concept is what, though?

STEWART: The concept is sort of the world of children's television. And it's a bit rife with...

KING: Black humor?

STEWART: You might say that. Yeah. It's sort of like if children's television were run by sort of mafiosas and that sort of thing.

KING: Robin plays?

STEWART: Robin plays one of the children's entertainers that was very popular that -- oh, boy. That's a clip there. From what I understand, the movie is wonderful with no sound.

KING: That's what we see.

STEWART: No, it's called eye candy.

KING: And who do you play?

STEWART: I play the guy with the Gelman haircut. I play the -- here's what I thought as I was developing my character.

KING: Yes.

STEWART: What if I comb my hair forward? Because I didn't realize that actors have to do in-depth study.

KING: That's right. What feeling did you bring?

STEWART: I had nothing.

KING: What is your character in the movie? What is he? Who is he? STEWART: No idea. Read the lines until Danny told me I could leave.

KING: What is his occupation?

STEWART: He's a children's television executive.

KING: Ah. So how do you -- what did you bring to that?

STEWART: Nothing.

KING: Did you go to "Sesame Street" and study?

STEWART: I didn't do any of it. Here's what I did. Here's the work I did. I got cast in it...

KING: What motivation?

STEWART: ... and then I had two months before I had to show up on the set, and I came on the set, and I said, "Danny, Mr. DeVito, sir -- what if I comb my hair forward?" And he said...

KING: And he said, go ahead?

STEWART: Sure. And that was it.

KING: But when you read a line, any kind of line, do you have the feeling of here's what -- I'm not a children's TV executive, so I have to imagine what a children's TV executive...

STEWART: No, yeah, I don't do that.

KING: You don't do that. No Actor Studio, nothing?

STEWART: Yeah, I know.

KING: Feeling of panic?

STEWART: And I think it shows in the performance. I think you'll see there's absolutely nothing going on.

KING: It's called acting.

STEWART: Well, who knows. No, you do -- here's what used to happen, is I do this scene -- I always did three takes, because the first scene I would do it -- and Danny is really a sweet man. And so, he would always try to spare my feelings. So then I'd do the scene, and I hear like a little rustling over by the directors's table. And then Danny would walk over and lean to me and go, "you know, you're supposed to be mad in this scene, right?" And I go, oh, yeah, yeah, mad, right. OK, mad. So then we do the next scene. And I would do it, you know, and then he'd come back and go, "not cartoon mad. Mad." And then I'd have to do it again. And by the third one, I think he would just get sad.

KING: As we go to break, the film will open on the 29th. Here's a scene from -- you'll hear the words from "Death to Smoochy."

STEWART: That's exciting.


STEWART: Gentlemen, may I express that I'm as shocked and outraged by all this as you all must be.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Save it for the papers, Stokes. We've got nervous sponsors and an angry public.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are you going to do about it?

STEWART: Excellent question, sir. I've compiled a list of potential replacements.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Clean replacements with background checks? Where do you dig up these people? I can assure you, Mr. Stokes, that this network cannot survive another Rainbow Randolph.

STEWART: Sir, absolutely, and it is my personal mission to find a satisfactory replacement, a performer of character, a performer of honor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Most importantly, squeaky clean!

STEWART: Squeaky clean, sir.



KING: Some more quick things for Jon Stewart as we wind up things on this Friday night. NBC has re-banned liquor ads.

STEWART: Well, they were going to -- it was going to start slowly. You know, they also did the "Fear Factor" with the Playmates. And let me tell you why they used the Playmates in the "Fear Factor."

KING: Why?

STEWART: Once you've seen Hugh Hefner's testicles, fear is no longer in your vocabulary. You can do anything at that point. It's like a ritual, like running across hot coals. I may do it if I'm afraid of things.

KING: The government in Great Britain has shied away from a promised ban on fox hunting, but says there will be final action on the matter this fall. Are you a fox hunt enthusiast?

STEWART: No, and that's purely because rich people who are ensconced in English culture still have sway, but other than that, it's a ridiculous, unbelievably ancient, no longer worthy ritual and should be stopped.

KING: Why do they do it? What is... STEWART: I honestly think it's the boredom of the rich, of -- there's sort of a storied history, and they don't really know where it came from. And I can't imagine what would bring any compassionate, reasonable person pleasure riding around on a horse with dogs chasing a frightened, outmatched, outgunned, I think, unless the fox has a weapon, which I don't think it does -- I don't understand why that would bring you pleasure. But then again, I used to love doing the macarena. So what do I know? You know, the whole thing.

KING: I know you're a sports fan.

STEWART: Love sports.

KING: The Fighting Whites of Northern Colorado.

STEWART: What kind of nickname is that? The Whites aren't intimidating. You know what they should use, Indians. That's a nickname.

KING: You think that would work?

STEWART: No. I think it's very funny. It makes a good point. I do think -- are we a very sensitive culture politically? Yeah, but would it kill anybody to remove an offending nickname from their team? No, not really. I went to William and Mary. We were the Indians, I think, and they changed it to "pasty white."

KING: Stanford changed, St. John's changed.

STEWART: I don't see why it kills the team to change their nickname.

KING: Who do you like in baseball this year?

STEWART: You know, I'm a Mets guy, so I got to go Mets. They made a lot of great changes. Certainly going to win in combined weight. I think. This Mo Vaughn, Piazza, Burnits (ph) -- I mean, that's like...

KING: Combined weight, they win.

STEWART: That's WWF territory right there. These guys can take on anybody.

KING: Academy Award predictions. We know you already announced the winner on your show.

STEWART: I announced the winner on my show. It's going to be between the retarded guy and the schizophrenic guy. Because that's what it always is. That's how they determine best actor, who was afflicted with the most difficult problem. That's what I don't understand is, you've got this guy, Dustin Hoffman, he wins -- like remember Dustin Hoffman won because he did the autistic thing.

KING: "Rain Man." STEWART: But how do we know that's a good autistic person? We know -- I mean, he's doing the tricks and the -- 10 minutes to -- I'm sure there's an autistic guy at home going, yeah, 10 minutes to (UNINTELLIGIBLE). That's great. That's me. And that's what I sound like, thanks.

KING: We don't know autistic people.

STEWART: That's what I'm saying. I don't know what it looks like. I don't know what it seems like. It seems like a caricature, and yet...

KING: So you're saying Russell Crowe was good...

STEWART: I guess.

KING: ... if that's the way schizophrenic people are.

STEWART: Yeah. Who knows...

KING: But maybe they're not that way.

STEWART: How do you know -- you know, he's doing all this, yes, I'm going to do that, yes, I'm going to do the thing. By the way, that's really the way to get the hot girls. Just act nuts. It worked in the movie. Jennifer Connelly walks by, who is the guy waving his hands in the air and talking nutty? Bring it on!

KING: So Jon, let's go back to where we began the show.

STEWART: Let's do it!

KING: I (UNINTELLIGIBLE) you that CBS would definitely have been after you, there was no doubt about it?


KING: Where do you see your future?

STEWART: Well, clearly now, waiting outside their door.

KING: No, they rehired Letterman.

STEWART: I know. But I got time. I got years. Just -- I could bring a snack and a sleeping bag. Just sit. No. I very much love what I'm doing. But again, I'm not like anybody in this business, I'm not a crazy person. If something wild came along, yeah, you know. But the beautiful thing is, I get to -- I have something I love to do, and they pay me stupid money to do it. And that's...

KING: Do you do stand-up, too?

STEWART: Yes, every now and again. Don't do it on as regular a basis, because I like to be at home more, especially now. But still get out there and do it every now and then. It's a lot of fun, and much more free spirited, much more free wheeling. KING: Are you going to be at the Met opener?

STEWART: Say that again?

KING: Be at the Met opener?

STEWART: Oh, I'd love to go to the Mets opener. Yeah. Are you going to the Mets opener? Good to see you.

KING: Jon Stewart, the host of "The Daily Show." You'll see him in a new film, "Death to Smoochy." It opens in movie theaters...

STEWART: And I'm opening in Minnelli's wedding next Sunday.

KING: And he's in Liza Minnelli's wedding, playing the groom.

STEWART: I'm playing the groom -- who was wearing sunglasses, by the way. You know why?

KING: Why?

STEWART: Because he was high.

KING: We'll tell you about the weekend after this. Don't go away.


KING: We thank Jon Stewart for joining us tonight. Over the weekend, we will repeat two programs, a weekend with Dr. Phil of "Oprah" fame. Among the guests next week, Celine Dion and Jodie Foster.