John Stewart's reading time?
June 9, 2009 2:13 PM   Subscribe

Does John Stewart really read all the books of his guests? It seems like he does, but does he have the time? Does his staff make cliffnotes for him?
posted by paulinsanjuan to Media & Arts (20 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I was in the Daily Show audience on June 2 and someone asked this question. He responded that he doesn't read the books, and it's not that hard to BS someone for 6 minutes to make them think he does.

I'll agree that it seems like he reads at least some of them, though. He seemed to know Larry King's book pretty well when he was on there.
posted by flying kumquat at 2:22 PM on June 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

FYI, Jon Stewart is his name.
posted by Jaltcoh at 2:25 PM on June 9, 2009

There's an entire staff behind (and in front of) Jon (no h). I'm sure at least someone gives the books a good skimming.
posted by pmbuko at 2:26 PM on June 9, 2009

I've gotta believe that book publicists put together talking points to be sent to reviewers, interviewers, bloggers, etc. with copies of any book that is high-profile enough to get its author on the Daily Show. I'm sure this cuts down a lot on what Jon Stewart's staff has to do.
posted by Xalf at 2:26 PM on June 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

I know he's admitted on a few occasions that he hasn't read the (whole) book. I can't remember which books or which guests, unfortunately.
posted by desjardins at 2:26 PM on June 9, 2009

I think there's also a tacit understanding between Stewart and the guest that the guest is on to promote the book. There isn't an assumption, or at least there shouldn't be, on the part of the guest that Stewart has actually read the book.

I would be very surprised if any guest walks onto the stage thinking that Stewart took the time to read the book. Presumably, the author's publicist types a bunch of notes about the book, hands them off to an assistant of Stewart's, who consolidates them into that night's show's notes, and Stewart goes from there.
posted by dfriedman at 2:29 PM on June 9, 2009

The last time Denis Leary was on, Stewart admitted that he hadn't read the book. (Leary replied with something like "I read the book your staff wrote for you!")
posted by ocha-no-mizu at 2:37 PM on June 9, 2009

All tall shows do what is called a "pre" with almost all their guests. It's basically a rehearsal of the interview before the show. This makes sure:

a) the guest gets to promote what he wants
b) the host and the show feel comfortable that they will have an entertaining conversation that goes somewhere and fits the format of the show.

This doesn't mean there's no spontaneity at all, but unless the guest is a very trusted friend of the show, they definitely go over a series of marks they want to hit. In the case of an author, this would definitely cover the aspects of the book he wishes to discuss/promote.
posted by drjimmy11 at 2:39 PM on June 9, 2009

"tall shows" = "talk shows"
posted by drjimmy11 at 2:39 PM on June 9, 2009

Often when Stewart gets in a good discussion or argument he is talking about the THESIS of the book. A good thesis can be summarized in one sentence in one chapter.

Often the rest of the book is supporting material or examples or tangents.

And Stewart is smart enough to understand the larger context of the thesis (or it's weak points) and talk about that for 6 minutes.
posted by DetonatedManiac at 2:51 PM on June 9, 2009 [2 favorites]

I think it's pretty clear he does read some of the books, but obviously not all of them.
posted by delmoi at 2:52 PM on June 9, 2009

I should point out that most of these books are written / edited with Grade 10 reading ability in mind. I'm not denigrating these books, just pointing out the reality of the mass-market publishing industry. A university graduate (or someone of Stewart's intellect) could easily plow through any of these books in one evening. And if you skimmed through them for 20 minutes, you'd certainly absorb at least 90% of the useful information.
posted by randomstriker at 2:56 PM on June 9, 2009

if you watch that interview with chris matthew, he was clearly expecting a softball book promo interview, and js had definitely read enough to hate his bs.
posted by alkupe at 3:02 PM on June 9, 2009

sometimes he mentions specifically that he read a book - the last one i remember was (i think) newt gingrich. he said something like "oh yes, i read the book" when he surprised the guest with a question.
posted by nadawi at 4:39 PM on June 9, 2009

Nah, he doesn't read all of all of them. But he clearly reads some of many of them, and all of a few of them.
posted by Netzapper at 4:41 PM on June 9, 2009

This is what interns or PA's are for.
posted by Zambrano at 6:13 PM on June 9, 2009

Actually Jon's full name is Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz.
posted by dcjd at 6:16 PM on June 9, 2009

Actually Jon's full name is Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz.

Not anymore. He had it legally changed.
posted by pmurray63 at 8:25 PM on June 9, 2009

I'd bet that Jon Stewart reads the books that genuinely interest him - just as you would read free books you're given if they genuinely interest you. Beyond that, the majority of the books almost certainly go unread.

The gist of any interview is that there is a reason why the person is being interviewed, right? So, as the interviewer, all Stewart needs is the point of the book and a few quick highlights to hit - all of which can be found without even having to open the book.

When I was a freshman in high school, I was supposed to read a certain number of books for my 9th grade English class. The teacher would then give us individual book reviews which counted as 1/3 of our total grade for the year. He was a talkative man, and I knew that he had 30+ other students to get to... thus... all I had to do was show lots of enthusiasm for the book I supposedly read and find a way to guide the conversation to something specific I could discuss at length. This was my first period class. I could easily flip through the book during home room, find something to be "enthusiastic" about, and then run with it to eat up the teacher's time during my so-called book review.

Needless to say, I got an A without ever having to read a single book (I'm not lazy, by the way. I'm legally blind but lacked the courage to deal with that at the time, so I cheated... but that's another story).

Aaaaaaaaaanyway... all any interviewer has to do is find a few details and guide the interview. As a student, I always had to worry about getting caught, whereas the interviewer is in complete control of the process.
posted by 2oh1 at 12:18 AM on June 10, 2009

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