Employee Of The Month: Jon Stewart / by Michael Arthur

Jon Stewart at Joe's Pub, Feb 19, 2015

This is a not entirely successful portrait of Jon Stewart, drawn live on stage last night at Joe's Pub as I sat with him and Catie Lazarus during her Employee Of The Month show. There were times as I drew this (and more than a few other abandoned and failed attempts) that Jon would look directly at me while he answered Catie's questions and it felt like he was speaking just to me.

I'm certain that anyone in the audience felt the same way whenever he made eye contact with them. It's a familiar feeling, being spoken to by Jon Stewart. I've been listening to him talk for sixteen years or so; he's a virtually-present presence in my life.

So, the fact that I was there on stage, having a genuine moment with him in real time, was filtered by the already intimate relationship I have with his face, voice and humor.

And maybe--although it seems counter intuitive--that's why I had a hard time getting a good likeness of him. Drawing for me is a discovery process, a way to know something unknown in myself or what I'm watching. But, in a way, I feel like I kinda already know Jon Stewart--though I had never met him before last night.


Now that I think of it, I never actually formally met him. He was just there, we got our group picture taken and then we all went out on stage together and did a show.

"That's Jon?," said Catie after Stewart departed, leaving the audience and those of us on stage alone together in the Pub, looking at my drawing on the big screen.

"Yeah, it's not my best. I have a good batting average with drawings, but . . ." I bowed my head. 

Stewart was present and relaxed, dressed in a leather jacket over a sweatshirt. The discussion--his first public appearance since announcing the other week his impending departure from The Daily Show--was absorbing and funny. It ranged from his employment history to his work on The Daily Show, his sober if light-hearted assessment of his acting skills and what the uncertain future held. When asked if he had any thoughts about who might succeed him as host, he said he was more interested to see what the next iteration of the Daily Show structure might be. "By its nature, each show is sort of disposable," he said, pointing out that a daily show requires a new commitment every day, and a letting go of the last one. Pointing with admiration and humility to John Oliver's HBO show, he observed that the Daily Show had become a model that could be adapted in a variety of ways.

I'm grateful to Catie for inviting me along. Hanging out with Jon Stewart was fun; I laughed a lot.

That said, my drawing doesn't look like Jon Stewart.

But it's the best drawing I could do the night I shared the stage with Jon Stewart. And I hope it captured something about the evening--something about showing up, being present and moving--with humor and good intentions--into the next.