Chicken Fried Steak
by Kelly & Melly
Note: This story is complete
fiction. If it had really happened, you all would have heard about it by now.
Kelly and Melanie were
in shock. They had come to New York city for a few days, working on a story
about the city post 9/11. Shortly after an interview with a fireman, Kelly
received a cell phone call from their editor back in Philadelphia. He had
set up an interview with Jon Stewart. Melanie didn't believe it. She gulped
and stared at Kelly, who, when she saw Melanie's face, laughed as they started
back to their hotel.
"We're gonna meet Jon
Stewart" Kelly said. "We're gonna meet Jon Stewart, we're gonna meet Jon Stewart!"
Melanie gulped again as
they started walking faster. "What the hell am I going to wear?"
After telling the receptionist
who they were and being led upstairs to a long row of offices, the girls were
herded into a small area that resembled a waiting room from a doctor's office.
"Did you hear that?" Kelly
asked, poking Melanie. "Jon is going to be up in a minute! Jon himself!"
"I know," Melanie said
gravely, wiping her ashen face. "I have never been this nervous in my life!"
The two girls sat in stunned
silence for a few minutes, their bodies tensing at every sound that came from
behind the closed door.
"For Christ's sake, I
feel like I'm about to get a pap smear ...." Kelly said, prompting both girls
to burst out laughing.
The two were still giggling
when the door swung open and they didn't even notice the short, Jewish man
with sparkling blue eyes watching them with amusement.
"Hi girls!" he said, stepping
into the room and extending his hand. "I'm Jon. I see they put you in the
The girls rose silently
to their feet and stared at the man they watched on TV every night. He looked
amazing ... he looked dashing ... he looked ... exactly like did on TV. Nice
crisp charcoal gray suit, a white shirt, and a matching tie.
"Hi!" they said at the
"I'm Melanie," Melanie
said, shaking Jon's hand. "This is Kelly, my photographer."
"Hi!" Kelly said, trying
to remain professional. Suddenly she looked at Melanie. "YOUR photographer?
What about you're MY writer?"
"Nice to meet you!" Jon
said, his eyes sparkling at them. "My office is right across the hall, we
can go in there."
Jon waved them into his
office, "Come on in, sit down, sorry about the mess."
The girls couldn't believe
they were in Jon Stewart's office. It was the same office they had seen on
60 Minutes -- exposed brick, a lumpy sofa, a desk almost collapsing under
the weight of many papers, and a small television tuned to CNN and muted.
They made their way to the two chairs in front of Jon's desk. Melanie scrambled
for her notes and tape recorder while Kelly set up her camera.
"Is it okay if we tape
record this?" Melanie asked, looking for a place to set the tiny recorder.
"No problem," Jon said,
taking a seat behind his desk. "Here," he said, clearing a spot near the front
of his desk for Melanie's tape recorder and tossing the papers he had removed
on the floor beside him.
"So where are you girls
from?" Jon asked, opening a drawer and taking out a bag of gumballs. "Was
it Philly? You want a gumball?"
"Yes, we're from the student
newspaper at the University of Philly," Kelly said, taking a gumball. "You're
doing stand up there next week."
"I am?" Jon asked, offering
Melanie a gumball and then dropping the bag somewhere on his desk. "Oh right,
I am," he said, looking at a calendar tacked to the wall. "Okay."
"You know," Kelly said,
blushing, "I thought your office would be bigger. I pictured ... I don't know,
like that scene from Notting Hill with all the people and stuff, all bustling
around, shouting at each other."
Jon laughed, "Nope, nothing
special here. We're mostly busy all the time, putting a show together every
"A HA!" Melanie said,
examining her notes, "Nice segue, Jon, that brings me to my first question."
As Melanie opened her mouth to speak a pile of papers displaced by Jon's elbows
fell, knocking her little tape recorder into her lap, followed by a mound
of papers. The three cracked up.
"I'm sorry about that,
I'm such a slob." Jon said, standing up and leaning over the desk to look
at the tape recorder. "I'll tell ya what, are you girls hungry? There's a
little diner around the corner we can go to, it would be a lot easier to do
Melanie and Kelly looked
at each other tentatively, "Oh, well, we don't want to trouble you." Melanie
Jon waved his hands again,
"It's no problem, my treat. Sorry for the odd hour, but we don't usually have
time to eat right at noon. It won't be that crowded anyway."
Melanie and Kelly grinned
and nodded, "Sure!" they said again, at the same time.
Jon was right. Except
for two waitresses and few people at the bar, the little diner was empty.
"Hello!" the waitress
said, setting the usual napkins, silverware and water in front of all of them,
"What can I get you'ns this afternoon?"
Kelly and Melanie scanned
their menus. They were really too nervous to eat, but Jon had been nice enough
to bring them here, they had to order something.
"Um ... I'll have a burger
and fries. And a coke, pepsi, whatever one you have." Kelly said.
"Me too," Melanie said,
grinning at Kelly.
"Chicken fried steak meal
for me," Jon said, handing the waitress the menu.
Kelly took a deep breath
and looked around the restaurant, taking in the drab green walls and dirty
dusty floor. Smiling to herself she looked over at Jon and laughed.
Jon looked around. "What,
too low brow?" he asked.
"No!" Kelly assured him.
"Just ... real. You've always struck me as a real low key guy ... just ...
a regular guy, meat and potatoes, not filet mignon."
"All right!" Melanie said,
finishing organizing her notes and triumphantly setting her tape recorder
on the table, "How long do we have for this? I have a ton of questions, actually."
Jon glanced up at the
clock on the wall above the bar, "We have time, about 45 minutes. Go ahead,
"Okay. Do you find it
hard to live a normal life now that you're famous? Or do you prefer the special
treatment?" Melanie asked, her lips pursed in a reporter expression.
"Well ...." Jon said,
"I'm not ... I'm not all that famous, really. I mean ... I don't know."
"Oh come on, you're a
household name." Kelly interjected.
"I am?" Jon asked, genuinely
Melanie nodded. "At least
for this generation."
He smirked. "Yeah, the
kids love their bitter Jewish guys ...."
"You've never struck me
as bitter." Melanie added, tapping her pen on the table.
Jon laughed. "All right,
well, I guess the answer to your question is no, I don't find it hard to live
a normal life. Not to be facetious, but I just live it normally. I mean, I
get up, I go to work, I do my work, I go home ... watch TV ... do crosswords,
"All right, now ... Philly."
"Philly," Jon repeated.
"Do you prefer colleges
to clubs? Is it because of the size, or the audience, or is it just easier
Jon sat back. "Well, I
think the answer to that is yes. I do prefer colleges because of the size
and because of the audience. College kids are easier to please. I don't know
if it's because they're high, or because they laugh easier, or because they're
less jaded, but I've just found the college vibe I get makes it easier to
be funny. I sort of feed off the energy."
Melanie looked at her
notes. "Okay, since this gig in Philly is in honor of Judaism, is it going
to be a speech? Like, about being Jewish and famous and obstacles you overcame?
Or is it going to be comedy?"
"Oh man, I hope they don't
want a speech!" Jon said, frowning. "I am no speech giver."
Kelly looked for the waitress.
"Where are the damn drinks? I mean, I'm as patient as the next gal with waitresses,
but this is ridiculous."
As she finished her sentence
the waitress rounded the corner and plopped the drinks at the table, spilling
a little on the table. Apparently not having noticed she whizzed off again,
heading to the kitchen.
Kelly shook her head.
"There's goes some of her tip."
Jon laughed. "You're pretty
critical on waitresses."
"She IS a waitress." Melanie
said. "Which you would think would make her less critical, but apparently
not. All right, well then, is your comedy going to be more focused on Judaism?"
"Hmmm," Jon said. "Well,
much of my comedy is based in Judaism already ... but it'll probably come
up more than it usually does. Normally I try to balance it out to expand to
a wider audience, but since this thing is ABOUT being Jewish, I might include
more of that."
Melanie nodded, scribbling
notes and checking the numbers on the side of the recorder. She squinted at
her notes. "You recently got married. I won't delve too much, but do you find
that it's harder or easier to be funny now that you're married?"
"Um," he hedged, "that
question comes up a lot. I don't find it different. Some people say that comedy
comes from pain, and I guess that's true, but life presents enough pain on
it's own volition. You never really run out."
"What kind of humor tickles
you?" Melanie asked.
"Tickles me?" He asked,
laughing. "Well, the word 'tickle' tickles me. Hmmm, really, Anything funny.
Anything fresh, not overdone, and ... anything that just grabs you and gets
you, where you have to laugh."
Kelly nodded. "Like Ace
Ventura? Did you like Ace Ventura?"
"Yeah, absolutely." He
said, nodding. "Cause when Ace Ventura came out, no one was doing shit like
that. That was some of the most original stuff I'd ever seen."
"What's your favorite
movie? Your favorite actor? Or ... comic?" Melanie asked.
"Which one? All three?"
"How about you just tell
me all your favorite stuff and I'll write it down," Melanie joked, laughing.
"I can just make my article a list."
Jon laughed as the waitress
showed up and plopped their food down in front of them. Jon got a chicken
fried steak with hash browns, Melanie got a burger, and Kelly a tuna salad.
"Um," Jon said, reaching
out to the waitress who was about to leave, "she ordered a burger." He looked
at Kelly. "You did order a burger didn't you?"
The waitress raised an
eyebrow. "You want the tuna or what?"
Kelly laughed. "You know
what? Take the tuna, I don't want it."
"Whatever." She said,
turning and leaving.
"Oh my god!" Kelly said,
shaking her head and laughing. "Wow."
Melanie started giggling
and Jon looked embarrassed. "I'm so sorry, would you like my chicken steak?"
Jon said, pushing his plate over towards Kelly. "How about my hashbrowns?
God, I feel awful bringing you guys to this dump. Usually they have better
service, but I think she's new."
"No, it's okay. I'll steal
Melanie's fries, don't worry," laughed Kelly.
Melanie pushed her fries
within Kelly's reach and turned her attention back over to the interview.
"Movie, actor, comic?"
"Okay ... movie.
Hmm. That's too hard. I'm tempted to say The Royal Tennenbaums, but that's
mostly cause it was the last good one I saw. I don't know, let's skip that
one. Actor, would have to be DeNiro, he's just tremendous. And comic? I don't
know. It's a toss up between Rock and Carlin."
"Oh, Chris Rock is hilarious."
Kelly nodded. "I don't
know, Carlin's list of naughty words gets me rollin' every time."
"And Lenny Bruce." Jon
added. "In fact, put him first, then Carlin, then Rock."
"Okay," Melanie said.
"How hard was it to decide when and if to come back after September."
Jon took a deep breath
and chewed a bite of food. "Well, it wasn't IF we came back, it was HOW we
came back. Cause there was a definite question as to how do we mock the news
when it's so serious this time ... so gut wrenching. But eventually we just
said we have to go out there and feel our way. Eventually, when we got over
the fear and the shock, the anger and annoyance crept in. And so slowly we
started doing what we used to do ... make fun of the news. We started out
slow, one pointed joke here and there to see how it went. Then we saw that
that's apparently what the people wanted, and so, we just slid back into the
old pattern -- taking what annoys us, and hoping that it annoys others."
"Can I just say, Jon,
your speech ... the most beautiful thing I've ever heard." Melanie said.
"I've seen a lot of movies,
watched a lot of TV, read a lot of books, gone to several churches, gone over
tapes of presidential speeches, especially in war time, and I've never been
so moved by any nine minute speech in my life ... which is only 21 years long,
but still," Kelly said.
Jon laughed, looking down.
"Stop it. I cried like a baby ... on TV!"
"More power to you." Melanie
said. "But we'll move on."
Kelly took a picture then,
catching Jon off guard. She smiled at his shocked face. "I'm in love with
honesty. I hate posed pictures."
"Whaaaa?" Jon stuttered.
"All right!" They laughed.
Melanie sighed. "Well,
I can't think of anything else, so I'll close with my signature ending." She
smiled at Jon. "What do you have in your pockets right now?"
"Huh? Oh ..." Jon shoved
his hand in his pocket. "Um ... a penny ... my wallet ... a jaw breaker...
and ... what the hell is this?" he said, looking at a piece of paper. "Hey!
My grocery list! Thanks for reminding me! Laundry detergent, beer, ranch dressing,
toilet paper ...." He looked up. "I probably should have left that last one
off," he said sheepishly. The girls laughed.
Melanie held out a hand.
"Thanks so much for granting us this interview."
"And for lunch, even though
I didn't get any," Kelly interjected, laughing.
Jon nodded, smiling. "The
pleasure was mine, and I'm really sorry about that."
Kelly shook her head.
"I'm not too hungry."
Melanie smiled nervously.
"Could I ... um ... uh
... hug ... you?"
Jon smiled and opened
his arms. Melanie giggled and hugged him, mentally crossing number four off
of her list of life goals.
Stepping back, Melanie
smiled and tried not to blush. "Thanks."
Kelly sighed. "Well, as
long as we're being unprofessional ... me too?"
Jon opened his arms again.
As Kelly stepped back, she smiled up at him. "So adorable" she muttered, smiling
and shaking her head.
"One last picture?" Kelly
asked, holding up her camera.
Jon pulled his ball cap
down over his head and grinned as the flash went off.
"Hey girls?" he said as
they started to leave.
"Yeah?" Melanie said.
"Send me a copy of the
Kelly smiled. "Sure thing."
Added April 14, 2002.