“He’s a comedian; he’s very funny.” This was the description of Jon Stewart I overheard a ticket-taker giving a pleasant-looking older couple as they entered the John Paul Jones Arena last Saturday. I had to wonder how they ended up there without a clue as to who Jon Stewart is. Whatever, by the time Stewart’s second bestiality joke rolled around, I had to think back to that kindly couple and what must be going through their heads at that moment.
Clown prince: William & Mary alumnus Jon Stewart told the JPJ crowd that his alma mater was just like UVA “if you take away the fun.”
Probably the same thing that was going through the heads of 70 percent of the audience. Indeed, it was a surprisingly all-ages crowd, and Stewart returned a number of times throughout his set to what seemed to be genuine embarrassment at how inappropriate his material was for the 12-year-old in the second row (“I’m almost 13!” the kid offered helpfully at one point). The audience may have come to see “The Daily Show” host riff political, but if they did, they got a lot more than they bargained for. Unconstrained by the boundaries of a fake news show, Jon Stewart took aim at Bush and Cheney, yes, but also technology, children, pet ownership, religion, the environment and anything else his day job doesn’t give him voice to discuss. This established a weird kind of tension that lasted through the night.
If the audience was looking for a political polemic, what they got was a stand-up comic. The crowd, it seemed, wanted to prove to Jon Stewart that Charlottesville is enlightened, breaking out, at one point, the ol’ “People’s Republic of Charlottesville” saw. Stewart just wanted to tell some jokes. He won out: By the end of his set, the older couples, the UVA kids sobering up after a bourbon-soaked day at Foxfield, even the 12-year-olds were on their feet for a standing ovation. And as well they should’ve been. Like the ticket-taker promised, he’s a comedian and he’s very funny.
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