Who Is Jon Stewart Imitating?
March 30, 2004 8:55 PM   Subscribe

Who is Jon Stewart imitating when he does that weird voice on the Daily Show? He does it almost every night and I don't really get the joke.
posted by adrober to Media & Arts (30 answers total)
Do you mean when he makes that coy look and goes "mmm... that's good [blank]? 'Cause I'd like to know who that's an imitation of, too.
posted by interrobang at 9:21 PM on March 30, 2004

Response by poster: Yes. It's hard to describe in writing; but each night my roommate and I watch him baffled, not really sure what's going on. Glad you're as lost as we are.
posted by adrober at 9:30 PM on March 30, 2004

If it's the voice I'm thinking of, it always struck me as kinda Woody Allen-ish, with perhaps a dash of Jerry Lewis. But I could also be way, way off.
posted by GeekAnimator at 9:46 PM on March 30, 2004

I've always assumed he was impersonating one of Johnny Carson's characters, but the name escapes me right now.
posted by Doug at 9:56 PM on March 30, 2004 [1 favorite]

I think that would be Art Fern.
posted by llamateur at 10:16 PM on March 30, 2004 [1 favorite]

So, this Art Fern character said something like this a lot? What did he say, and what were the circumstances? Why is referencing it funny?
posted by interrobang at 10:23 PM on March 30, 2004

I don't know either, but thank God I'm not the only person who doesn't find that funny.
posted by Hildago at 10:29 PM on March 30, 2004

...I don't mean to sound snarky by asking, by the way. The link didn't really explain what the character was about.
posted by interrobang at 10:31 PM on March 30, 2004

True, that was just the first page dedicated to Art Fern that I could find. And the fact is, I don't really know either. (I was a little young for Carson, though I occasionally caught him while staying up for Letterman.)

I've just heard that same voice done for years on things like MST3K and the Simpsons, and have occasionally heard it referred to as an "Art Fern voice," and that factoid just stuck with me.

I'm sure there are some Carson fans who can help us out, though.
posted by llamateur at 10:47 PM on March 30, 2004

There are many Daily Show video clips on the web, can you please link to one and point to the voice - I really don't know, Stewert does a lot of peculiar voices.
posted by dgaicun at 11:54 PM on March 30, 2004

I barely remember watching Carson now, as a kid. I remember Carson used to use it was a segue a lot when a joke was flat or if he wanted a little something more. I vaguely remember some Art Fern sketches from the show and if I remember correctly, every single punchline is told in that voice (the whole bit is done in a funny voice, but the jokes really pour it on).

It was funny at first when Stewart did it in the same way anyone doing a Jerry Lewis thing today is kinda slightly funny for pulling some 50-year-old comedy out like that but it is getting a little old.
posted by mathowie at 11:54 PM on March 30, 2004

That's a cold taco.
posted by Jairus at 12:09 AM on March 31, 2004

So people are imitating Johnny Carson when they do the "Mmmm . . . that's good x" gag?
posted by dgaicun at 12:11 AM on March 31, 2004

I'm not sure this is really an answer, but I've always saw it as an imitation of the old "Borscht Belt" comedians who performed at the Jewish resorts in the Catskills in upstate New York and sometimes in the city during the year.
I think Henny Youngman would fit into this mold, though there are probably a lot of famous vaudeville performers before him I don't know about. Some of what Rodney Dangerfield does could probably be called a more recent "imitation" of these performers.
It's really more of an archetype - and one that is very culturally-bound. In fact, Yiddish jokes and puns were also staples of their repertoire. So if you're not from New York, I can see how the schtick would be lost on you.
Carson and David Letterman both kind of do little imitations of old Borscht Belt vaudeville comics. It's kind of a stock thing among many comedians in general.
Since John Stewart is from New York, and Jewish, and a comedian, he probably assumes it's a universal bit.
I don't really think it's that funny - but that's my interpretation of what he's doing.
posted by sixdifferentways at 2:47 AM on March 31, 2004

Oh I just remembered -
for most MeFites the most obvious modern reference would be Krusty the Clown!
posted by sixdifferentways at 2:51 AM on March 31, 2004

I'm really confused...I thought I knew the "voice" being discussed when it was the Art Fern thing...then the borscht-belt and Krusty the Clown voices came in and to my mind they're completely different. We badly need a video clip to reference here.

Is it the kind of voice Gleason used when he would say, "How sweet it is..."-- kind of mincing and slimey?
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 5:26 AM on March 31, 2004

Mmmm, yes. Yes, it is. More like Gleason, less like Krusty.

In fact, I'd say not like Krusty at all. And the look ... it's kind of, well, Jack Benny.

I am not helping.
posted by grabbingsand at 5:43 AM on March 31, 2004

Gleason did a character called "Reggie Van Gleason", who was a rich playboy drunkard, complete with top hat, silk spats, and little cape, and when he would take a sip of a drink, he would indeed sometimes say "Mmmm, that's good" in a funny voice.

Carson was imitating Gleason, and not just when he did the Art Fern character.

Stewart is imitating Carson, but as Carson, not necessarily as Art Fern. Not unlike the "wild, wacky stuff" line that was a minor Seinfeld catchphrase borrowed from Carson.
posted by briank at 6:05 AM on March 31, 2004

Piling on with the Gleason channeled by Carson opinion.

It's okay, but it was even funnier the other week when Rob Corddrey (I think) nailed all of Jon's schtick during his "remote" on fake news.

I do like it when Stewart rubs his eyes with his fists and makes the squeegee sound. But then I'm infantile.
posted by baltimore at 6:30 AM on March 31, 2004

Last week on the Simpsons, Homer had joined the Naval Reserves, and was tying a "perfect sheepshank", but forgot to tie the other end to the ship - which immediately drifted off and over a massive waterfall. Cut to Homer for reaction-shot gag. Homer does a muted, silly "D'ooooh" in the same sort of voice as Stewart uses, shaking his fists, slightly bent over. The way it looks makes me think the bit might come from some old sitcom maybe, like Sgt. Bilko or something, something pre-Art-Fern.
posted by kokogiak at 6:40 AM on March 31, 2004

Response by poster: I did suspect it might have been a reference to Carson (by way of Dana Carvey?) when he does the Amazing * character with the turban? I don't think there's anything Borscht belt about the voice: it's more nasal than deep Yiddish Zero Mostel style humor. (Which Jon Stewart will do occassionally too).
posted by adrober at 6:51 AM on March 31, 2004

Gleason did a character called "Reggie Van Gleason", who was a rich playboy drunkard, complete with top hat, silk spats, and little cape, and when he would take a sip of a drink, he would indeed sometimes say "Mmmm, that's good" in a funny voice.

You just cleared up a recent and mystifying Sopranos reference for me, thanks.

For the record, this is pretty much the only thing that the otherwise godlike Stewart does that annoys me. I always figured it was a Borscht Belt thing, whatever it was, but he just does it way too much.
posted by CunningLinguist at 7:06 AM on March 31, 2004

Speaking of the Simpsons, they used the "mmm, that's good X" line in this episode.

It was an unknown character, who says "mmm, that's good satire!" at the end of Enron's "Ride of Broken Dreams" rollercoaster ride.
posted by O9scar at 10:06 AM on March 31, 2004

Also, Moe used it in The Blunder Years after he drinks the Indian memory tea: "Mmmmmm, that's good Yaqui."

And, as dgaicun pointed out, Sideshow Bob says "Mmmm, that's good plastic explosive" in Day of the Jackanapes. I always found that line jarringly out-of-character for Bob. But for some reason, I loved Moe's version. (Also, it's worth pointing out that Moe's Johnny Carson impression was dead-on.)
posted by llamateur at 11:33 AM on March 31, 2004

the Amazing * character with the turban

That would be Carnac the Magnificent, and the voice is completely different.
posted by jjg at 1:33 PM on March 31, 2004

John Stewart does a Reggie Van Gleason impression several times per week. Usually he emphasizes this with a tug at his necktie.
posted by Juicylicious at 5:35 PM on March 31, 2004

No, the tug at the necktie is Dangerfield.

Somebody needs to put together an Encyclopedia of Classic Comedic Tics and Bits website, including audio & video, so Jon Stewart's demographic doesn't have to sit there puzzled every night.

And that's Reginald Van Gleason to you, my good man.
posted by luser at 6:29 PM on March 31, 2004 [1 favorite]

"And that's Reginald Van Gleason to you, my good man."

I'm not a man, but point well taken anyway. I stand corrected.
posted by Juicylicious at 7:07 PM on March 31, 2004

all the deconstruction around here makes me think the show has jumped the shark. bummer.
posted by whatnot at 9:12 PM on March 31, 2004

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