March 7, 2005

Jon Stewart Entertains Thousands at Cornell

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“‘I would found an institution where any person can find instruction in any study’ — now I know why they usually put this shit in Latin,” said Jon Stewart last Friday to a sold-out Barton Hall full of Cornellians. “In English, it sounds like an eight-year-old.”

The most trusted name in fake news, Stewart, from The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, delivered two stand-up comedy shows to thousands of students, faculty and staff late Friday night, critiquing not only American politics and religion, but also venting his thoughts about issues such as race relations, gay marriage and technology. Stewart elicited almost constant applause and uproarious laughter from the audience during each show.

Stewart offered a second show after he heard his first scheduled show had sold out in mere hours to a line of ticket buyers stretching across the arts quad.

“To all those people who camped out, I just want to say: I’ve seen my act. It was a huge … mistake. It’s just not that good. Maybe if it was sunny out and like 80. But I thank you so much. I’m delighted to be here in this really frozen hellscape,” Stewart said after he walked onstage wearing cargo pants and a gray T-shirt over a dark blue one with noticeable holes in the sleeves.

Most famous for his political jokes on The Daily Show, Stewart began by reassuring Democratic Cornellians about the November election.

“I know the election was controversial. I know a lot of people, the Democrats in particular, [are] a little sad. They don’t have control of the presidency; they don’t have control of the House; they don’t have control of Congress, judiciary, anything. [They’re] probably wondering when they’re going to bounce back, and here’s the good news … George Bush’s election and the subsequent Republican assention will lead to Jesus coming back,” Stewart said. “When Jesus comes back in the rapture, the righteous will be spirited from the earth. In that moment, I believe, or soon thereafter, Democrats will regain control of the [government].”

In a serious aside, Stewart wondered how gay marriage became such an important political issue.

“How could it possibly be that gay marriage is a wedge issue for anybody other than gay people? How is it that gay marriage became a cultural touchstone, a hot button issue? … Is the right afraid that if gay people openly announce their sexuality that you will have to blow them? … Is the idea that their rhetoric is so powerful and concise that even the most ardent heterosexual, the most testosterone-filled lothario, after a five-minute conversation [with a homosexual] would say, ‘sir, you are very convincing. I have to suck your dick.’ What is the fear?” Stewart asked. “But it’s part of that very strange idea in our government to use these odd social wedge issues that are meaningless but allow them to skirt the issues that they would normally have to deal with in a proactive way.”

Stewart also mentioned his appearance on the CNN show Crossfire, on which he pointed out its apparent shortcomings. The show was cancelled shortly after Stewart’s appearance.

“As far as Crossfire is concerned … Imagine you hate something. And you like to sit at home in your underwear, drinking, and yelling at the T.V. about this thing you hate. And then suddenly, you’re beamed onto the set, and they’re sitting right in front of you. So you think to yourself, ‘oh, I should tell these dudes I hate them,'” Stewart explained. “The problem is, they’re there. And it gets really awkward really fast. Imagine a commercial break where for two-and-a-half minutes, you just sit there like [that].”

“So I’m not necessarily proud of the way that I dealt with it, although I stand by pretty much everything that I said,” Stewart added. “The important thing is, when you call someone a dick on national television, you get a lot of answering machine messages … but as I was leaving, Tucker [Carlson] said to me, ‘You’re not being that funny.’ And I remember thinking, ‘yeah, but tomorrow I’ll go back to being funny, and you’ll still be a dick.'”

Highly political issues were not the only topics Stewart spoke about.

“They’ll advertise beer on national television during the day, every five minutes, but they won’t advertise condoms on national television because it’ll lead young people to have sex,” Stewart said. “It is exact opposite of what they should be doing. Hey, guess what’s the leading cause of sex amongst young people? Beer. How many people here have ever gotten laid because they had too many condoms at a party one night?”

Among a slew of other topics, Stewart joked about Canada, having sex with pi