Monday, May 17, 2004

Review: Jon Stewart, Naked

Naked Pictures of Famous People by Jon Stewart, Rob Wiesbach Books, 1998

This particular book (not the book in general, speaking of all books of this type, but this single physical volume) has already had a life before it came into my hands. My friend Brian found this in a used bookstore in New York City, pulled it from the shelf, and saw that it was autographed "To my best friend Jeff - Jon Stewart". Brian thought "I have a friend named Jeff", and so he bought it and sent it me. Brian's like that.

So I have a book autographed by Jon Stewart to me, declaring not only his friendship but his "BEST" friendship. Though we've never met. And maybe Jon Stewart will come across this modest weblog (you know, he's ego-searching his name - Find all "Jon Stewart" minus all references to "Green Lantern"). And maybe he'll feel irritated with his so-called "Best Friend" Jeff, and decides to drop him like a bad habit and that his NEW "Best Friend" Jeff is the holder of the book. That would be me. So I'm hanging onto it, just in case.*

OK, the book itself is a series of ficticious and outrageous humorous essays about famous people, written in the pre-Daily Show era when Stewart still had his talk show. Ficticious. Humorous. Outrageous. Hitler on the Larry King Show. Van Gogh on an AOL chat room, Lenny Bruce getting a sitcom on CBS. The waiter at the Last Supper. Part of the humor is the offbeat setups. Part of it is also in a paen (as opposed to "direct rip-off") of Woody Allen's brilliant essays in "Without Feathers", both with its Judaic references and entries from the Department of Funny New York Words ("Rent Control", "canasta", "nosh", "Schmucks"). And part of it is sort of the rude nonsequiter East Coast college comedy magazine humor ("Knock Knock" "Who's There?" "Joke's Over Now! Bite Me! Hahahahah!") I should note that Jon Stewart graduated from William & Mary, and recently delivered an excellent commencement address there ("About the world. Well, we broke it.")

Essay after essay of famous people doing horrible things or horrible people thrust into mundance positions is a bit wearing, such that writings that break the pattern are amusing in themselves (A former geek who goes back to his High School reunion seeking revenge, to discover that the majority of the people there are ALSO seeking revenge is paticularly amusing). But it also underscores an important point that has since become a part of The Daily Show humor - that the tools in the modern world we utilize for communications (Talk shows, the Internet, People magazines) are pretty damned crappy when describing the modern world that we are part of. The Modern Media is a box full of hammers, and we're holding a handful of screws. No wonder things are so badly screwed up, and we have so many ragged holes in the walls.

Anyway, if you happen to be in a used bookstore and comes across this book, and it turns out to be autographed "To my very best friend" and your name is listed, pick it up. Maybe Jon will call.

More later,

* I recognize another option here - that the autograph ITSELF is fraudulent, written by someone to give to the "Best Friend" Jeff, who might be a big Jon Stewart fan (but not so big that he didn't sell the book later, maybe to buy time on a MMORG or something). But I find that option to mere fantasy, whereas Jon Stewart will read me this and fly me out to The Daily Show. Or maybe just to have a nosh.