Judd Apatow's new book "Sick in the Head" is loaded with interviews with amazing comedians, but we're partial to his talk with Jon Stewart. Stewart and Apatow worked together on "The Garry Shandling Show" early in their careers, so there's a rapport between them, but also an element of "whew, we made it" to their reflections. It's the kind of connection that probably made Stewart comfortable sharing an anecdote like this -- a night he bombed badly, in front of the biggest room, and some of the biggest stars.
Here's his story:
I had already been on TV for a bit by this time. They were reopening Radio City Music Hall, so this is probably the largest crowd I've played. It must have been 5,000 people. And it's a night of big stars -- there's Billy Crystal and they're raising him up on a platform through the stage floor, like he's Michael Jackson. He's leading the charge. Fucking crushing it, destroying the room. ... I come out and there is some confusion in the audience as to why I am there. I can feel it. Six minutes into the bit, and it has not in any way dissipated. What was impressive about it was, you would think the law of averages says that if you have a room full of 5,000 people , some of them are going to laugh at some point at something, even if it's just something they whispered to their friend. You know what I mean? But it was total silence. Impressive in its discipline. At a certain point you think, like, Doesn't anyone here have a cold? Isn't anyone here going to sneeze? Shuffle their feet? No sound. I really felt like there was a moment of silence at some point for something; I just didn't realize what it was. I'm coming offstage and it was truly shocking, in its unanimity and uniformity. And I turn and look and there's Shirley Jones. She looks at me and doesn't say anything; she just opens her arms up to give me a hug. It was one of those, like, There, there, poor boy.