Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Naked Pictures of Famous People (Jon Stewart)

Let’s be up front about this: Jon Stewart is a genius, and The Daily Show is hilarious, and America: The Book is pretty damn funny too. Naked Pictures of Famous People is a short, oddball little book (18 pieces in 163 pages) from a pre–Daily Show Stewart, and it’s unfortunate that the two places I really laughed hard were the dedication page (“For my loves—Tracey, Stan, and Shamsky. No offense, Sportscenter.”) and the “Microsoft Word ’98 Suggested Spelling and Usage” at the end, a list of suggestions his computer had made for words and phrases appearing in the rest of the book, in no small part just because it’s funny to see some of those words reappear devoid of context (“Wilford Brimley” “WILLARD BRAMBLY”; “Jewey” “DEWEY”; “Chickenshit” “NO SUGGESTIONS”). Well, OK, and also “Martha Stewart’s Vagina,” a fake decorating article in extremely poor taste that is pretty hilarious too.*

The rest is kind of uneven, in some places thoroughly dated (“Vincent and Theo on AOL,” putting Vincent van Gogh into an AOL chat room, mainly to reveal that people in chat rooms tend not to communicate in the most literate possible language; “A Very Hanson Christmas, 1996–1999,” following several years of Hanson rise and fall through Christmas newsletters) and in others covering some pretty well-trodden territory even at the time (“Lack of Power: The Ford Tapes,” on Gerald Ford being somewhat of an ineffectual dimwit as president), although with a few bright spots along the way (“The Recipe,” an outline for creating a successful entertainment awards show, all the more funny now that Stewart has hosted the Oscars; “Revenge Is a Dish Best Served Cold,” about a man who has spent decades creating a monster in his parents’ basement for the sole purpose of turning it loose at his thirtieth high-school reunion).

So: Funny at times, but you can safely stick with The Daily Show and not feel like you’re missing out.

*Yes, you can guess what is being decorated.

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