Jon Stewart is riding his own post-convention bounce. Thanks to his spin on the '04 presidential campaign, average viewership for Comedy Central's Daily Show is up 14 percent from this time last year. The week of the Republican National Convention was the most watched in the show's eight-year history; it averaged 1.4 million viewers. Stewart & Co. are also promoting America (The Book): A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction, a fake government textbook published by a division of EW parent Time Warner. We quizzed Stewart, 41, one day after George W. Bush's speech.
What kind of influence does your show have on voters?
I have no idea -- the same influence Brooks & Dunn had by showing up at the Republican convention, which is almost none.
How comfortable are you now as a member of the real media?
In this day and age, anybody with a website is part of the real media. Media is so all-encompassing. But we're not journalists, we're comedians.
When you were on ABC's Nightline,you were more vocal about how badly the news media are getting ''creamed.''
Part of being the town fool is you can yell about that but you can't really do anything about it.
Yeah, because I'm not competing with them. My colleagues are other fake news shows. Ted Koppel's not my colleague.
Then is your real target the media, not politicians?
Politicians are doing what politicians do. I liken it to when you go to the zoo, and the monkeys are sitting in there jerking off and throwing their s---. And you just gotta go, ''Well, they're monkeys.'' But you can yell at the media and go, ''You know, your job is to tell them when they're being bad monkeys.''
What was your take on your Aug. 24 interview with Sen. John Kerry?
It was a relatively mediocre talk-show experience. Actually, that's a great example of the limits of this program. People expected the show to create a ''new paradigm of info-enter-propa-gainment!'' It ended up just being a comedian lamely making jokes to a presidential candidate who didn't want to embarrass himself or appear stiff.
Does it make you mad that you can't come more readily to Kerry's defense?
Not at all! Look, Bush is the guy in power. When you're in my position, it's more interesting to make fun of the Globetrotters than the Washington Generals. Bush is not stupid. Stupid is ''Oh, my God, I just ate soap.'' He's unbelievably shrewd and very competitive. [But] it's one thing to make fun of one of 100 senators who voted to send us to war. It's another thing to [joke about] the guy who was actually driving the bus!
Is it important for you not to come out in favor of one guy?
No. It's important to us to make sure the show doesn't suck. That's it.
Will you get Bush on the show?
I highly doubt it. If I do, then I'd call into question his judgment. Unless he doesn't have access to bite-size chocolate bars. We have basketfuls here.
How hard is it to make fun of somebody and then interview them on the show?
I don't think we're mean-spirited. There's anger in some of what we do, but I don't feel like we're just firing flames into the bushes.