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Come Armageddon, This Man Will Be Hosting a Talk Show

October 25, 1998|IRENE LACHER

We bring you a sighting of a species seldom seen in this town--a real New Yorker. Don't contradict us. We mean a purebred, someone unadulterated by Sports Club L.A. or Fred Segal.

When was the last time you consorted with a gentleman who still sports the "Miami Vice" look--minus the tan and the Hugo Boss jacket? A guy who practices match conservation by lighting virgin cigarettes with smoldering butts?

We, too, haven't spotted many undiluted citizens of that subway-ridden abyss, not since we went into geographical recovery, anyway. So when comedian and New Yorker extraordinaire Jon Stewart invites us to join him in two very New York activities, we're at a bit of a loss.

Let's get this straight: Not only are we going for a walk to buy cigarettes, but we're going for a walk to buy cigarettes.

"This place has a cigarette machine, which is literally the equivalent of a jukebox or a musket," Stewart says. "A cigarette machine, who uses one anymore? I don't have change, so I figure we'll run to a deli."

Run? Without our Nikes?

As we set out from the New York-oid Chateau Marmont for the wilds of Sunset Boulevard, we seize the opportunity to grill Stewart about his first slender volume of humor essays, "Naked Pictures of Famous People" (Rob Weisbach Books). Given all the kooky guys he figuratively disrobes, such as Abraham Lincoln and Leonardo da Vinci, we ask Stewart why he ignored the two famous people all America is imagining naked.

"Bill and Monica? I wanted the book to stand the test of time. Boy, every night, joke joke joke joke joke about it, and I just didn't have anything to add at this point."

Stewart then riffs on how silly the presidential sex scandal will seem years from now when we're distracted by something more attention-getting, such as nuclear Armageddon. What a nut!

On the domestic front, Stewart is a peacenik, which must have cheered his hosts at the Marmont given his, um, fascination with the end of the world.

"Very rarely does a comedian go on a late-night tear with a bunch of friends and wreck a place," Stewart observes. "How many times have you heard, 'Milton Berle stayed here and wrecked the place'?"

Hmmm. That must be because comedians are more into internal destruction. Anyway, back to Armageddon. Stewart's grim prognosis for humankind makes us wonder why it is that so many of our pundits are comedians these days.

"They're not really, when you look at the broad spectrum of it. The funny thing about comedians and pundits is comedians know who they are and pundits put up a facade of who they are.

"I know when I go on TV, I'm not advancing any analysis of the situation. I don't have any agenda. I know I'm an organ grinder with a monkey. These guys go on with the idea that they're giving you analysis of the news, but they're not. There should be subtitles underneath these people--'will do anything to discredit the president,' 'will do anything to defend the president.'

"There's a hypocrisy among them. Comedians have their own hypocrisy, but it's different."

What's yours?

"That we don't always practice what we preach. But we don't have to, because we're not pretending to be anything other than who we are."

So comedians are equal-opportunity discreditors.

"Yeah, I think so. I'm not a Democrat. I'm not a Republican."

Stewart's something even more dangerous--a TV talk-show host. And he's having a second coming in January, when he replaces Craig Kilborn as the anchor of Comedy Central's topical "The Daily Show."

So when Stewart predicts the end of the world, don't bother your pretty little head about it. That's just the wacky world of comedy.

Or Stewart running out of Camel Ultra Lights.

David Remnick made his official maiden voyage to L.A. recently as the new New Yorker editor. And as a fledgling head of estate--fourth, that is--he wasted no time in getting down to business with New Yorker publisher David Carey. The two young media turks wined and dined potential advertisers in various fields dedicated to mobility--travel and automobiles. And because we are out & about, we came along for the ride.

We were wondering how L.A. would fare in the post-Tina Brown era, now that the former New Yorker chiefess has sailed off to Miramax to create a new magazine. (Brown is also expected to be in town this week, on the arm of husband Harold Evans, who's on tour for his sweeping new tome "The American Century" [Alfred A. Knopf]).

Needless to say, we liked Brown's intimation that even if Hollywood isn't the center of the universe, it's at least a suburb. So at the New Yorker bash at downtown's Cicada Restaurant, we asked Remnick where we stand in the new world order.

"The movie business is enormously important as a producer of popular culture and also exportive culture, and the movies are an important part of American life," he said, "but it ain't the only thing in Los Angeles."

So Remnick has launched the magazine's first regular feature about Los Angeles, a letter from L.A. that will begin appearing frequently before the end of the year. The column will be written by intrepid and eclectic New Yorker scribe Connie Bruck, who is working on a book about Lew Wasserman for Random House.

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