Close Encounters of the Jon Kind
Name: Shelly C.
York City, Tribeca
May 10, 2002
Film Festival Panel Discussion, "September 11th: How it Changed Us", Artists
Responses in a Time of Uncertainty
I went to the panel discussion
that Jon was moderating as part of the Tribeca Film Festival. At first I wasn't
going to go (even though it was Jon) because it was about September 11th and
I felt it was too depressing. I was also a bit surprised that Jon was even doing
it since he has pretty much stated during interviews and such that he would
rather not talk about it. I decided, however, that it was worth it, particularly
since it wasn't just Jon, but Spalding Gray, Susan Sarandon, and Wendy Wasserstein
-- not a bad group. But who am I kidding ... it was Jon.
I got there exceedingly
early, partially because Tribeca is one of those places that is very confusing.
All of the people who got there at the same time as I did went for the front
row center. So I figured, why not? I just "happened" to have ended up sitting
directly in front of where Jon was sitting. He looked fabulous. (As did Susan
Sarandon. The woman does not age. She is like a female Dick Clark ... well,
maybe not quite)
Jon was wearing his cream
sweater/cargo pant ensemble. He immediately started off making jokes. I wish
I could remember everything he said because he managed to take a difficult topic
and make it okay to laugh. I had to make a concerted effort to not stare at
him. Here was Jon Stewart, closer to me than he had ever been before. But this
was an important discussion. I wanted to hear what everyone had to say. Mental
note to self: Do not stare directly at Jon, his beauty may blind you. Second
note: I have to say, several times during the discussion, I felt like he was
looking directly at me. Of course, this was more than likely my imagination
and partially coincidental since I was sitting right next to the microphone
where all the people were standing to ask questions.
Because the discussion
was supposed to address how artists were reacting and dealing with 9/11, Jon
said he would leave it up to the others since he is not really an artist. He
then said something like, "Have you seen Half Baked?" as justification for his
lack of artistry. He also said that as artists they were clearly all very familiar
with dealing with adversity, after all, he still feels like he is three feet
tall with a huge nose.
Susan asked that the lights
be brought up on the audience so she could see them, and Jon said they were
probably busy doing other things in the dark. He said something regarding the
audience using this as a big make-out session. But I digress, as I could go
on forever (and often do).
They quickly opened up
the discussion to the audience for questions and Jon said everyone should say
their name and the name of their film they are trying to promote. (I thought
it was funny, but realize it may not come across that way in print.)
All in all, Jon looked great, and he proved yet again how incredibly smart he
is, and how exceptionally funny he can be no matter what the circumstances.
He spoke of the League of Nations and Chomsky and Gore Vidal. It was quite impressive.
From the moment I realized
that the audience could ask questions, I knew I had to ask one. After all, I
would get to address Jon, since he was the moderator. I had a really good question,
but then a line started forming behind the microphone. A long line. I thought
that surely these people had brief questions and would sit their asses down
so I could talk to Jon. No such luck.
At several points during
the discussion, things got a little heated. A few of the times Jon would try
to interject with humor, 98% of the time with great success, though I laughed
100% of the time.
One girl asked a question
which was quite good (it of course escapes me at this time, as do most of the
exceptionally funny things Jon said throughout) but prior to asking she said
she had a quick question and said to Jon, and I am paraphrasing, if you ever
break up with your wife, will you go out with me? He just sort of smiled and
laughed a little and didn't say anything. She then said how great TDS is and
how so many people enjoy it. He did one of his, "Really?" routines as though
how could anyone possibly watch his show. I, at that point, was thinking about
how if he ever (God forbid) broke up with Tracey that he would go out with me
... sorry, I am getting off topic.
Another girl asked a question
and Spalding Gray said how it was a great topic (something involving the taking
of pictures of the tragedy) and Jon asked him if he would write about that in
one of his monologues and Spalding said yes. At that point Jon asked if anyone
else had any suggestions for Spalding's next project.
One of the few other things
that were "typical Jon" were that when someone asked a question and prefaced
it by saying he was from Vancouver, Jon simply said, "I'm sorry."
The only problems with
the whole experience were as follows:
1) A couple of stupid people
saying stupid things that simply served as a complete waste of everyone's time.
Most of these things caused Jon to attempt to stifle laughter, and made me cringe
and/or actually have to cover my face to avoid laughing at inappropriate times.
These were also often the topics that began heated discussion that made a lot
of people, including me at times, uncomfortable. I am never comfortable with
2) A #$#&*&$*&$*#&$ chick
not only gave Jon a hard time for making her wait too long to ask a question,
but proceeded to quote a bunch of facts and figures that she had "researched"
and began attacking Jon, the US government and everything else under the sun.
Jon "tried" to respond to some of her comments/questions and she started essentially
yelling at him. Jon then retorted, "Why do I feel like you are breaking up with
me?" I wanted to hit her.
3) Due to questions such
as those above I didn't get to ask a question at all
4) I felt uncomfortable
approaching Jon under these circumstances, I just felt it wasn't the right time.
Prior to the start of the
discussion, a woman had told everyone that when it was over no one should come
onto the stage. It was a very low stage and an audience member could easily
just step right up. As soon as everything was done, this woman who started getting
completely off subject (and wasted the last question) and talking about the
crisis of AIDS (clearly she was in the wrong panel discussion) rushed the stage
heading straight for Susan Sarandon. I was dumbfounded. A security guy stopped
her, but I felt really bad for the panel members, as it must be scary to have
a random weird person start charging you.
Then a woman behind me yelled
Jon's name and to my surprise, he came to the front of the stage to talk to
her (he is so friendly). She handed him something and said how much she enjoys
him and thinks he is talented. He just said thank you very much and shook her
hand. My mind was sort of wandering as I was watching it happen because I kept
thinking, "Should I approach him?" But to the best of my knowledge, that was
the extent of their conversation. She was slightly older than most of the crowd
(maybe late 30's, early 40's). I don't know why that would be significant other
than me thinking, why is Jon talking to that unattractive person when he could
be talking to me? But that is not me being superficial, it is just me wishing
I was talking to him instead of her....
At this point he was standing
right in front of me. All I had to do was say his name and shake his hand. But
this just wasn't the time. I felt like he wanted to go, and this wasn't "a performance."
Besides, I feel I will encounter Jon again, and write about it at that point
Just thought I would share.
Overall, a very positive Jon experience. Then again, could one really have a
"negative/bad" Jon experience? Quite frankly, I think not.
Compiled by Melly.