It feels like just yesterday the fresh-faced stand-up comedian from New Jersey — then described as “sharp” by The New York Times and “overeager” by The Chicago Tribune — was sitting down for his first-ever “Daily Show” interview. He fidgeted with the buttons on his oversized suit like a nervous bar mitzvah boy and, in refreshing contrast to comedy frat-boy predecessor Craig Kilborn, charmed viewers with a particular Woody Allen-ish brand of self-deprecating humor.
For the next three weeks, leading up to “The Daily Show” host’s August 6 departure, Salon will be taking a look back at some of Stewart’s most memorable moments spanning his 16 years and five months.
Today, we look back at Stewart’s interview with Christina Aguilera from November 2002.
When Christina Aguilera joined "The Daily Show" back in 2002, she was already three years deep into the life of a highly visible superstar.
At 21, she'd received a Grammy award for Best New Artist, recorded a #1 album on the Billboard charts, been prominently featured in a Disney animation (Mulan) -- and attended a "strip joint"?
Well, Jon Stewart was determined to get to the bottom of that last one. While speaking to the budding pop star in his 2002 interview, Stewart expressed some paternal concern about what Aguilera was getting into in her spare time. His worries were only exasperated by the sight of her newest album photo for "Stripped" in which Aguilera appeared to be, well ... stripped.
"You know -- I'm reading the gossip columns. You're having a nice time in New York!" Stewart said, knowingly.
Aguilera reiterated that she was "just" a 21-year-old and, yes, from time to time, she was prone to do average 21-year-old things like "going out" and "hanging out."
Then came Stewart with a confessionary lesson on growing old: "You explained what 21 was. Now let me explain what 40 is," he began.
"We sit at home on the couch with a bowl of meat ... or Cheetos and we watch the youth, such as yourself, and think to ourselves 'If I was 21 I'd be going to strip joints -- that's what I'd be doing.'"
Aguilera went on to reassure Stewart that the single off her new album, "Dirty" was just a "street term" for "being able to go out and have fun." Stewart quipped that obviously he understood street terms -- "who is more street than me?" -- and that "dirty" clearly meant getting a bit of "schmutz on your face."
And on that day, November 4 2002, Christina Aguilera almost recorded a Yiddish tune called "Schmutz."
Watch the clip courtesy of Comedy Central below: