Friday, June 8, 2012

Naked Pictures of Famous People

Naked Pictures of Famous People by Jon Stewart (1998): Before Jon Stewart was the host of The Daily Show, he hosted a number of other things while also maintaining a stand-up act and writing occasional humourous prose pieces for high-profile magazines that included George and The New Yorker. This slim volume collects 19 of those pieces.

The obvious comparison is to Woody Allen, whose finest humourous prose pieces were collected in Without Feathers several decades ago. While Stewart's pieces are, like Allen's, absurdist short fictions and faux-essays, they owe as much to televisual influences such as SCTV as they do to Allen's generally more literary-based absurdism.

A good example of Stewart's technique would be a piece which gives us Larry King's interview with Adolf Hitler, who has emerged from hiding in the 1990's to publish his memoirs and do the talk-show circuit. Hitler spouts psychobabble and touchy feely aphorisms that ultimately seem only slightly beyond belief. Other pieces include a satiric explanation of how to retool Judaism to be cool in the 20th century, a fable about Bill Gates and the Devil, and a blackly comic series of letters exchanged between Princess Diana and Mother Theresa.

Helpfully, none of the pieces weighs in at more than 12 large-type pages, so this could make for some intelligent bathroom reading. Highly recommended.

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