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Gritty, Heartwarming 'Hustle & Flow'

A Memphis pimp with a midlife crisis tries to make it as a rapper in Hustle & Flow, a film featuring the prodigious acting talents of Terrence Howard. He spent nearly two years researching a role that he initially did not want to accept.

06:24

Other segments from the episode on July 22, 2005

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, July 22, 2005: Interview with Jon Stewart; Review of the film ew film "Hustle & flow."

Transcript

DATE July 22, 2005 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A
NETWORK NPR
PROGRAM Fresh Air

Interview: Jon Stewart discusses politics and comedy
DAVE DAVIES, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies, senior writer for the Philadelphia Daily
News, filling in for Terry Gross.

In six years as host of "The Daily Show" on Comedy Central, my guest Jon
Stewart's quick wit and biting satire have taken the once-obscure fake news
show and made it an influential voice in American humor and politics. His
guests now include top celebrities, politicians and writers. And "The Daily
Show" is often quoted in mainstream political coverage. The program won a
Peabody Award in 2000 for campaign cover and has won several Emmys.

A new collection of "The Daily Show's" coverage of the 2004 presidential
campaign, "Indecision 2004," has just been released on DVD. And last year
Stewart and "The Daily Show" came out with a book called "America (The Book):
A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction." It's still in the top 10 in The New
York Times hardback, non-fiction, best-seller list.

Stewart shortened his name from Jon Stewart Leibowitz because, he said, it
sounded too Hollywood. Stewart started doing stand-up in the mid-'80s, got a
show on MTV and an HBO special and had parts in several movies before joining
"The Daily Show" in 1999. I spoke with Jon Stewart last year.

Let's begin with something from "The Daily Show." This is from the program
that aired the day after President Bush announced the nomination of John
Roberts to the Supreme Court. They've just played a clip in which CNN's
Robert Novak insisted that Justice Rehnquist's retirement was imminent.

(Soundbite from "The Daily Show")

Mr. JON STEWART (Comedian): When it comes to the vacancy left by Sandra Day
O'Connor, the media has shown restraint, and when word of an imminent
announcement for her replacement filtered through yesterday, journalists were
determined not to make the same mistake.

Unidentified Journalist: Everyone in Washington outside of the White House,
some even say they've been told by people inside the White House today that it
would be Judge Edith Brown Clement.

Unidentified Journalist #1: The focus is on one name in particular.

Unidentified Journalist #2: The name is Edith Brown Clement.

Unidentified Journalist #3: The name that is on everybody's lips today is
Judge Edith Clement.

Unidentified Journalist #4: We've learned that the president met with Edith
Clement.

Mr. STEWART: Here's the thing: Apparently not only are they always wrong;
they're always wrong and they put it on tape. Apparently the only time the
press gets it right is when the White House illegally leaks it to them. Now
Edith Clement was not President Bush's choice. Last night he unveiled his
pick with his usual mastery of the rhetorically obvious.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: When a president chooses a justice, he's placing
in human hands the authority and majesty of the law.

Mr. STEWART: Hmm. So you're going with a human, are you? Hmm. Excellent.

DAVIES: Well, Jon Stewart, welcome to FRESH AIR.

Mr. STEWART: Thank you very much.

DAVIES: Do you have as much fun doing that show as it looks like you're
having?

Mr. STEWART: No. No. Let me explain something. Our entire day is focused
on taking the un-fun we have, making it and turning it into fun when it gets
on the air. Because we function, actually, very similarly probably to a news
show in that we have sort of an editorial meeting in the morning. It's a
really structured day. We actually do have a very good time doing it, but
it's sort of relentless, and it's a lot of--the structure of our day is a lot
more rigid, I think, than people would imagine.

DAVIES: You start by reading The New York Times, The Economist,
everything--watching a million news clips.

Mr. STEWART: Oh, no. We get more of our news from the tickers on the top of
cabs. So it starts from that. Our day usually starts with sports scores.

DAVIES: Building it from the ground up, right.

Mr. STEWART: Exactly. Yeah. No, we normally--you know, the papers are
not--it's not like we come in at 8:30 and start reading the paper and go, `Oh,
this story's interesting.' I mean, we're working--the beautiful thing about
faking a news show is the topicality is delayed, and the truth is, it helps us
more to have saturation of a news story, because then everybody's very
familiar with the parameters of it, so we generally are working a day or two
ahead.

DAVIES: Yeah, you've got..

Mr. STEWART: At least at our best.

DAVIES: You got a chance to do the Howard Dean scream after everybody already
heard it.

Mr. STEWART: Yes, although we didn't do it, I think, as much as what you
would imagine the other news organizations--unfortunately for us, things that
are absurd--on its face value, things that are funny don't really help us as
much as--you know, Fabio on a roller coaster getting hit in the face with a
bird doesn't really help us as much as Allawi speaking to a joint session of
Congress, you know.

DAVIES: Telling us that corruption is leaving his country, right.

Mr. STEWART: Yes, exactly. So it's--things that are inherently amusing are
not as interesting to us.

DAVIES: How much of it do you write? How much of it do your writers come up
with?

Mr. STEWART: I write the entire program. What I like to do is come in,
write the entire program and treat my staff to hot stone massages.

DAVIES: At that point.

Mr. STEWART: That's just how I like to work. I'll come in around 7, have
half a grapefruit, do some Jazzercize and then just get to writing.

DAVIES: God, you are as decent a man as we thought.

Mr. STEWART: Oh, it's absolutely unbelievable. No, we have an unbelievable
staff of writers, and Ben Karlin, the executive producer, D.J. Javerbaum,
who's the head writer, and then all the writers, the correspondents. I mean,
for me, I can literally show up at 5 pretty drunk, and as long as the show is
spelled out phonetically on the PrompTer, you know, I'll do OK. I just have
to face the right direction. I sort of function, in some respects, in the
same way you would imagine the anchor functions as a managing editor type.

DAVIES: Was there a point at which, you know, in recent years you suddenly
realized that all of the A-list celebrities and newsmakers wanted to be on
this show? I mean, you've had an incredible run of people coming onto this
show.

Mr. STEWART: We find that the biggest stars, the most powerful people, want
desperately want to be on the most obscure cable channel they can find. It's
just something that they want. It gives them a sense of adventure. We're
like Outward Bound. You know, to find our show, you have to go past Spanish
people playing soccer.

DAVIES: Right.

Mr. STEWART: It's not something that, you know, you just fall upon.

DAVIES: I want to talk a bit about the celebrity interview thing you've done.

Mr. STEWART: All right.

DAVIES: And we've got a clip here of a big, big celebrity. This was former
President Bill Clinton. And I wondered if you were at all nervous about
meeting him, since you guys were so naturally kind of even-handed and tasteful
during the Lewinsky scandal.

Mr. STEWART: I was not in any way--you know, I actually got there pretty
much at the back end, if you pardon the expression, of the Lewinsky scandal,
so I was not as responsible for the prevalence of jokes.

DAVIES: Right.

Mr. STEWART: But I mean, the truth is, at a certain point, I would imagine
he's kind of numb to sexual innuendo and everything else. So I don't
imagine--you know, if he were to avoid contact with all those who made
Lewinsky jokes, I don't imagine he would be going out very often.

DAVIES: Right. All right. Well, let's hear this, and I'll just say for our
audience that this is the beginning of the Clinton interview, and it's
followed a set in which you've sort of had some fun with the Swift Boat
Veterans attacking John Kerry's war record. This was Jon Stewart interviewing
former President Bill Clinton.

(Soundbite from "The Daily Show")

Mr. STEWART: Thank you for coming. Nice to see you.

Former President BILL CLINTON: I'm glad to see you.

Mr. STEWART: Thank you so much for coming on the program.

Pres. CLINTON: I'm glad to be here, and I'm glad you did that riff on the
military attack on Kerry, too.

Mr. STEWART: That was a rough one, wasn't it?

Pres. CLINTON: Yeah, but, you know, they did the same thing to McCain in
2000.

Mr. STEWART: The same group, am I right?

Pres. CLINTON: It's the same group.

Mr. STEWART: Nice kids.

Pres. CLINTON: Yeah, in support of the same crowd, I might point out.

Mr. STEWART: Right, who--had nothing to do with it.

Pres. CLINTON: No. They also pointed out, though, they had a calling
operation in South Carolina in the primary in 2000, talking about how John
McCain had a black baby, and they didn't want the white voters to forget it.

Mr. STEWART: Right. They actually meant Strom Thurmond. They just had the
wrong name.

DAVIES: That's Jon Stewart speaking with Bill Clinton. You know that line is
still funny to me, and when I saw it live, I thought, `There's no way that he
got an ex-president to set him up for that line.'

Mr. STEWART: No. Bill and I actually called each other sort of that night
you know, and I said to him, `What are you going to wear?' And he said, `What
are you going to wear?' And then we sort of go over our riffs, kind of Abbott
and Costello-ey.

DAVIES: Yeah. Well, you know, I mean, I think a lot of TV interview shows, I
mean, people do kind of--there's some planning go on between producers; `We'll
talk about this, you talk about that,' so you have a chance to prep.

Mr. STEWART: Right.

DAVIES: I mean, you just snapped that line off like--and it made me think of
the pressure of you there with four or five minutes with a celebrity, and, you
know, in most interview programs, there's a lot of ways to do a good
interview: The guests can say something new, they can say something revealing
about themselves, or they can be funny. But this is Comedy Central, and
you've got to give us a laugh every 45 seconds. Is that pressure?

Mr. STEWART: It would be pressure if that weren't the only thing I was good
at. You know, if the pressure was to come up with actually something
insightful and intellectually stimulating and emotionally honest, yeah, that
would be pressure. But if the concept is to come up with a wisecrack every 45
seconds, it's really the only thing that I've been trained for. So in some
respects, it's not pressure. The pressure is when the expectation is that
something other than that is going to occur, and that's probably when my lack
of professionalism shows more openly than during things like that, when I'm
doing wisecracks.

DAVIES: Well, I think you're selling yourself a little short there, and we're
going to get some...

Mr. STEWART: Hey, hey, hey, I'll do the short-selling here, young man.

DAVIES: All right. All right. Lowered expectations is part of the political
game.

Mr. STEWART: That's exactly right.

DAVIES: But I guess the other thing that I wanted to ask is, you've got a new
baby at home, born in July. Congrat...

Mr. STEWART: What? Oh, my God. I've got to go. Wait, how often do you
have to feed those?

DAVIES: No, now you do have a wife, Tracy, and I imagine you have some
help.

Mr. STEWART: Yes.

DAVIES: But are the times you come up...

Mr. STEWART: What else are you imagining about our lives? `I imagine you
have a fountain made of marble, and I imagine the walls are gilded in gold.'

DAVIES: Well, thinking like a little illegal immigrant there helping out
around the house or something. I don't know.

Mr. STEWART: Now why does it have to be illegal?

DAVIES: You're a celebrity.

Mr. STEWART: All right.

DAVIES: But I wonder if you come in sleep-deprived sometimes, and that makes
it a little tougher to--I don't know--to do what you do.

Mr. STEWART: I think doing what we do actually is enhanced by a certain
sleep deprivation, because it's the part of your brain that you're not really
in touch with until something's desperately wrong. So--but, yeah, you know,
it is relentless, but the nice part about working with a very talented group
of people is, you know, on a daily basis, not everybody's bringing their A
game every day, but there's always somebody there to sort of bring a little
bit of inspiration or a little bit of something else. I consider one of my
better talents to be recognizing a good idea when I hear it. One of the most
important things to be able to do in a show like this that is so relentless in
terms of its production schedule is to be able to recognize, you know, when
your idea isn't it and when someone else has it and be able to quickly run
with that.

DAVIES: Jon Stewart, host of "The Daily Show" on Comedy Central. We'll talk
more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

DAVIES: Let's get back to my interview last year with Jon Stewart, host of
"The Daily Show" on Comedy Central. The show's coverage of last year's
presidential campaign, "Indecision 2004," has just been released on DVD.

The Columbia Journalism Review, one of the most respected journalism
publications in the country, had a Web site in which they asked their readers
to poll those who were doing the best at covering the presidential campaign.
You came in fourth, well above...

(Soundbite of laughter)

DAVIES: ...well above people in The New York Times and other, better known
publications.

Mr. STEWART: Yes.

DAVIES: Are you...

Mr. STEWART: Now that is either a terrible statement about the state of news
in our country or the state of comedy on our program. I'm not sure which.
Probably both.

DAVIES: All right. Well, I want to play a clip...

Mr. STEWART: All right.

DAVIES: ...that might give us a little insight into why someone might mistake
you for a journalist. Now this is you interviewing former Republican
Congressman Henry Bonilla, and I believe this was during the time of the
Democratic National Convention, and he was a part of the Republican's Rapid
Response Team.

Mr. STEWART: Yeah.

DAVIES: So let's listen to Jon Stewart interviewing former Republican
Congressman Henry Bonilla.

(Soundbite from "The Daily Show")

Mr. STEWART: And so I turn on the TV, and they say, `He's the first most
liberal. Senator John Edwards is the fourth most liberal senator.

Mr. HENRY BONILLA (Former Republican Congressman): Right.

Mr. STEWART: So the only thing--'cause I watch it at home, and I'm stupid.
How do they figure that?

Mr. BONILLA: We have votes and bills that we sponsor, and we track...

Mr. STEWART: I'm not retarded. I mean, how do they compile--who, like...

Mr. BONILLA: They list them. You take a list that...

Mr. STEWART: Well, who's they?

Mr. BONILLA: These groups that I told you about, the conserv...

Mr. STEWART: But which one is the one that said they're the first and the
fourth?

Mr. BONILLA: Well, you take the trial lawyers or the people that follow the
union votes and the people who follow the small business votes or the
corporate votes, and they all go, `You're either with us 100 percent of the
time or 0 percent of the time.' And they kind of average them all together.

Mr. STEWART: Who?

Mr. BONILLA: These groups do.

Mr. STEWART: But which one--how do you--when you say `first most liberal and
fourth most liberal'...

Mr. BONILLA: You've got to ask that...

Mr. STEWART: ...what is the group and how is it--'cause I'm not...

Mr. BONILLA: No. I hope I'm explaining it clearly.

Mr. STEWART: I don't think so.

Mr. BONILLA: OK.

Mr. STEWART: I don't--it's coming.

Mr. BONILLA: I don't understand your question. Let's try again. Let's try
again.

Mr. STEWART: I just wanted to know...

DAVIES: That's very funny stuff, but this was a real interrogation. I mean,
you were doing what journalists do there.

Mr. STEWART: No, actually I think I actually was doing what journalists
don't do. I think that's why ...(unintelligible). Isn't that the issue, that
journalists don't do that? They basically--when you're--and I'm not talking
about print, but isn't the issue that on television, those sorts of operatives
for both political parties go on the air and say, `John Kerry's the first most
liberal' or `The new jobs created are $9,000 less,' and nobody ever says, `I'm
sorry. I don't mean to stop you, but what? What was that? Where do you come
up with these numbers?'

DAVIES: Right. But, I mean, do you feel yourself getting pulled into doing
the job that journalists ought to be doing? I mean...

Mr. STEWART: No.

DAVIES: Oh. No.

Mr. STEWART: I don't, because I feel myself being pulled into areas that
strike me as of interest to me, and that strikes me as an area of interest
that so many of these, you know--these political parties--it's very
interesting, but, you know, they are basically dedicated to figuring out how
to game the system, and they have found, I think, the real vulnerability in
our media, and they are exploiting that loophole.

And the vulnerability is twofold. One is the pace at which the 24-hour
networks have, so it's sort of their deadline pressure. And the other is that
the anchors are not versed in an expertise of news. They are TV people, and
so those two together form sort of a conspiracy of a non-aggression pact, if
you will. And it allows these talking-point robots, operatives from different
political parties, to go on these shows and basically lay it out there without
question, and it's done to influence people through repetition.

DAVIES: So deceptive content never gets challenged. Nobody ever gets to the
bottom of it.

Mr. STEWART: I wouldn't say never, but the prevailing sense is that if it is
challenged, it's in print and a week later, when information is available, and
if I know it, it's clearly available, because I'm not exactly--you know, I not
like one of the old guys with a metal detector on the beach, searching
for--like, it's there on my computer pretty much when I boot it up.

DAVIES: Right. But I guess what a producer of a talk show or "Crossfire"
might say is, `But, you know, in the great marketplace of ideas, our solution
is to provide competition. The other side is always there, and if one side
has phony talking points, the other side's right there.' Doesn't that work?

Mr. STEWART: Doesn't seem to be. I mean, but that's not--in the marketplace
of ideas, from what I understand, there aren't only two products available.
So that's like saying, you know, fair competition is soda machines with only
Coke and Pepsi in them. It's not the case that it is a free marketplace of
ideas. And the other side of it is, what is the expertise of the anchor?
What is your role then? That's like saying the referee for a football game is
just there to make sure no one dies. You know, there are--should be--you
know, truths, actual truths, and someone should be there to help arbitrate
that, and it seems to be that media should be the forum for that.

For instance, on "Crossfire," I'm not sure what those guys are doing there
other than egging their own side on, and if anything, I think that puts out
misinformation or disinformation, because it vouches for deception. By
allowing it on television, you are vouching for it. You're saying, `These
people--we've done a background check. They're OK.' It's like the Swift Boat
Veteran guys. They go right on TV.

DAVIES: With--they're granted credibility of wide access, right.

Mr. STEWART: Absolutely. They're granted the credibility of--and it's not
enough to bring someone on from the Democratic side, which--and say, `Well,
actually this isn't true.' Someone has to earn some credibility here, don't
they? And it's frustrating for me. You know, I watch these 24-hour news
networks all day long. You know, it's--because I night-manage at Bennigan's,
and I just happen to have it on. But a--the...

DAVIES: Oh, God. What a life you lead.

Mr. STEWART: No, it's really quite incredible. But in general, you know, I
think it's--they have abdicated their role. You know, politicians are
doing--of course, they're doing what they do. They're trying to get away with
as much as they can get away. But what I'm saying is political parties are
working seven days a week, 24 hours a day to find the loopholes and
vulnerabilities in the media system, and the media has to be better. The
problem is, the media isn't monolithic. We sort of keep talking about the
media, and unfortunately, it's a series of these fiefdoms. And they have
figured out how to play these fiefdoms off against each other. It's that
competition.

If you question us on our talking points--here's an example. I was watching
during the Republican convention Dick Cheney's daughter, and not the one that
they hide; the other one--was on--I think it was Anderson Cooper's show. And
she was doing the Republican talking points about John Kerry and the thing,
and Anderson Cooper, to his credit, stopped her and said, `Well, you know, to
be fair, you're sort of taking that out of context,' and literally, he
interrupted twice, and she said, very angrily, `What are you? A surrogate?'
And I thought, `Wow, is that where we've gotten?' We've gotten to the point
where if an anchor interrupts a talking point, you accuse them of being an
operative, which, by the way, is also a strategy, to discredit the person that
disagrees with you.

The other example was Zell Miller went on "Hardball" after his relatively
insane rant that, if you listened to without the picture, reminded you very
much of Strom Thurmond's famous 1948 speech, but not in content so much as
delivery. But--so, of course, Matthews questioned him on, `You really think
John Kerry would defend this country with spitballs?' And Zell Miller was so
upset at being questioned, he challenged Chris Matthews to a duel, which is
basically--you know, the idea is, `If the news media questions my talking
points, I will threaten to kill you.' I mean, that's--you know, these
politicians are so unaccustomed to interrupted spin that they literally lash
out.

DAVIES: Jon Stewart, host of "The Daily Show" on Comedy Central. He'll be
back in the second half of the show.

I'm Dave Davies, and this is FRESH AIR.

(Announcements)

DAVIES: Coming up, Carole King has a new live album. She tells us about
writing some of the greatest songs of the '60s and '70s. Also a review of the
new film "Hustle & Flow." And we'll continue our conversation with "Daily
Show" host Jon Stewart.

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies filling in for Terry Gross.

Let's get back to my 2004 interview with Jon Stewart, host of "The Daily Show"
on Comedy Central. The show's coverage of last year's presidential campaign
called "Indecision 2004" has just been released on DVD.

You grew up in, I guess, Lawrenceville, New Jersey.

Mr. STEWART: That is correct.

DAVIES: Were you a class clown? Did you have this sort of persona that made
fun of everybody in a kind of playful and endearing way?

Mr. STEWART: (Laughs) Yes. I was very playful and endearing.

DAVIES: That was you.

Mr. STEWART: I was an imp. I was on the smallish side, and yet my head is
the size it is now. I looked like a Peanuts character is what I'm trying to
say, except with acne. You can imagine I was very popular with the ladies.

DAVIES: Yeah, it must have been a great benefit.

Mr. STEWART: I was always very proud in high school. I was voted best sense
of humor and not class clown, and I always thought there was a very big
distinction there, even though I'm not quite sure what it is. But I think
that early on--yeah, people always say, you know, `When did you realize you
were funny?' And I think it's not that you realize you're funny; it's that
your brain works in a certain way. And I don't think that that's--I think in
some respects it's uncontrollable, and you can either accept it and deal with
it and hone it or you can try and fight it. And I was too weak to fight it,
and so I just sort of went with it. And the big thing to learn was how to
turn obnoxiousness into wit, and that was the hardest probably lesson.
Obnoxiousness is what gets your butt kicked, and wit is what makes people go,
`Oh, that's endearing.' And it's trying not to get your butt kicked...

DAVIES: What...

Mr. STEWART: ...while still having your brain work in a way that you're
comfortable with.

DAVIES: What do you mean by your brain works in a different way?

Mr. STEWART: It for some reason defaults to a joke. I don't know why it
does that. It certainly isn't helpful. It didn't help me keep any other job
other than this one. But for some reason, it always looks to mischief. For
instance, you know, I was in a--I didn't do any theater or anything like that
when I was younger, but we did do one--senior year in high school, we were in
a play called "The Pajama Game." And our first night performing it at the high
school in front of a full crowd--and everybody took it very seriously, and
rightfully so--my friends and I were in the chorus. We did "Steam Heat," you
know, a very powerful version, I might add. But there's one scene at a picnic
where the two lovers finally come together at the front of the stage, and
they're alone on stage, and it's in front of a backdrop of trees. And as they
were out there just about to begin this beautiful duet, I just--I wandered out
and put my back to the audience and pretended I was relieving myself on one of
the trees.

Now as you can imagine, the crowd found this somewhat amusing. The two actors
on stage, not so much. The director of the play, again, sided with the
actors, not so much. Me, I thought, `Oh, my God, I'm killing. This is
awesome! This play is going great.' And this is what I'm suggesting to you
is that it's learning when to use it, how to use it, but by God, there's
nothing else you can do. It's just some reason in any situation it occurs to
you that, `Wouldn't it be funny if...' And that's that.

DAVIES: Right. You went to college, William and Mary.

Mr. STEWART: Right.

DAVIES: And I read that you were 23 when you had a job with the state of New
Jersey and, you know...

Mr. STEWART: Yes.

DAVIES: ...looking forward to a reasonably happy life with a car and, you
know, making your way through the world. And you decided to go...

Mr. STEWART: Right.

DAVIES: ...to New York and do stand-up, and at first just got brutalized, as
people do. And I'm wondering, you know, there are lots of people who are
funny, that make their friends laugh, make their family laugh, and then when
they get on stage...

Mr. STEWART: Right.

DAVIES: ...and try and make an audience laugh...

Mr. STEWART: Right.

DAVIES: ...it just doesn't work. What...

Mr. STEWART: Yeah, that was me.

DAVIES: What is it--I mean, you were so funny. You had that brain working
that way. What was it you didn't know?

Mr. STEWART: What was it I didn't know about which...

DAVIES: About why didn't it work. Why is being funny with your friends not
the same thing as...

Mr. STEWART: Well, because it's a craft. You know, it isn't--there's a big
difference between having an analytical mind and being a good scientist.
There is a craft to learn. And that was the biggest lesson is that it
takes--again, it's that idea of turning obnoxiousness into wit or comedy. You
know, creating something from nothing is different from just being reactive at
a bar. And you have to create the atmospheric conditions for comedy. Comedy
is, oddly enough, very fragile and can be thrown off by, you know, a glass
breaking or somebody talking or--you know, there's a lot of different elements
to it that--and construction of a joke. You know, you have to create--one of
the things about being funny in life is the premise is already there.

DAVIES: Right.

Mr. STEWART: Typically when you're with your friends, premises are coming up
left and right. But when you're on stage, you must create the premise. So
you have to create the premise, paint the picture, and then deliver the punch
line. You have to take them from their, you know, sitting--you know, their
lack of movement, you take them from zero to laughter, whereas in life, all
that inertia is already presented, and you're just deflecting it.
You're--being funny in life is a lot more like, you know, judo. It's using
the energy...

DAVIES: Right.

Mr. STEWART: ...that's coming at you to your advantage.

DAVIES: Right.

Mr. STEWART: Doing stand-up comedy is in the middle of a traffic jam, getting
everybody moving again. You know, it's a totally different skill and
environment and one that is learned.

DAVIES: Well, Jon Stewart, thanks so much for spending some time with us.

Mr. STEWART: Thank you very much for having me. I appreciate it.

DAVIES: Jon Stewart, host of "The Daily Show's" Comedy Central. The show's
coverage of last year's presidential campaign called "Indecision 2004" has
just been released on DVD. Coming up, singing and songwriting legend Carole
King. This is FRESH AIR.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Filler: By policy of WHYY, this information is restricted and has
been omitted from this transcript

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Review: New film "Hustle & Flow"
DAVE DAVIES, host:

The writer and director John Singleton invested $3 million of his own money to
make Craig Brewer's first feature "Hustle & Flow" after every studio passed on
the project. Singleton made his money back and then some when the film sold
for $9 million at this year's Sundance Film Festival. Our film critic David
Edelstein has a review.

DAVID EDELSTEIN reporting:

"Hustle & Flow" is the gritty yet heartwarming story of an abusive pimp, DJay,
played by Terrence Howard, who has a midlife crisis and decides to turn his
life around by realizing his long-buried dream of making music. See, the pimp
stuff is just hustle, but the music, that's his flow. DJay bumps into an old
friend, Key, played by Anthony Anderson, who works as a sound engineer, mostly
for church choirs. Here, he makes a pitch for Key's help.

(Soundbite of "Hustle & Flow")

Mr. ANTHONY ANDERSON: (As Key) Look, man, I know you can learn a whole mess
of hustling out on the street, right? Let me tell you what I learned while
working on my job.

Mr. TERRENCE DASHON HOWARD: (As DJay) Thank you.

Mr. ANDERSON: (As Key) There are two types of people: those that talk the
talk, and those that walk the walk. People who walk the walk, they sometimes
talk the talk, but most of the time, they don't talk at all, 'cause they're
walking. Now people who talk the talk, when it comes time for them to walk,
you wanna know what they do?

Mr. HOWARD: (As DJay) What is that?

Mr. ANDERSON: (As Key) They talk people like me into walking for them.

Mr. HOWARD: (As DJay) Look, I'm just asking you, just listen to what I got
here of mine, all right? Just listen to it. And then if you ain't feeling
it, I'm out of your life, OK?

EDELSTEIN: You get a sense of how mesmerizing Howard is just from his voice.
He's an actor and musician, probably best-known for his role in the recent
"Crash" as an African-American TV director who downplays his blackness to fit
into white Hollywood. Here he plays black with a vengeance. He has some of
Samuel L. Jackson's intensity, but "Hustle & Flow" is set in Memphis, and
Howard's sound isn't hard or staccato. It's lighter, higher, more caressing,
a mixture of tense and easy. He could almost be speaking verse, then he is
speaking verse.

In his makeshift studio, DJay scrawls down some lyrics and begins to rap for
Key, but they still need to nail down a refrain, something DJay says along the
lines of `punch that ho' or `beat that bitch.'

(Soundbite of "Hustle & Flow")

Mr. ANDERSON: (As Key) Go back.

Mr. HOWARD: (As DJay) What?

Unidentified Man: What?

Mr. ANDERSON: (As Key) Whoop that trick.

Unidentified Man: That's it.

Mr. HOWARD: (As DJay) Like what? Like...

Mr. ANDERSON: (As Key) Like a chant man, `Whoop that trick.'

Mr. HOWARD: (As DJay) Whoop that trick?

Mr. ANDERSON: (As Key) Get 'em. (Rapping) Whoop that trick! Get 'em!

Mr. ANDERSON and Mr. HOWARD: (As Key and DJay) (Rapping in unison) Whoop that
trick! Get 'em! Whoop that trick! Get 'em! Whoop that trick!

Unidentified Man: Hey, Key...

Mr. ANDERSON and Mr. HOWARD: (As Key and DJay) (Rapping in unison) Get 'em!

Unidentified Man: ...put me in.

Mr. ANDERSON and Mr. HOWARD: (As Key and DJay) (Rapping in unison) Whoop
that trick! Get 'em! Whoop that trick! Get 'em!

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. ANDERSON and Mr. HOWARD: (As Key and DJay) (Rapping in unison) Whoop
that trick!

EDELSTEIN: DJay needs a woman singer, and as luck would have it his main lady
Shug, played by Taraji P. Henson, has a good voice. She's very pregnant and
not generating an income at the moment, and it's hard to say no to DJay who
can get physical.

(Soundbite of "Hustle & Flow")

Ms. TARAJI P. HENSON: (As Shug) (Singing) You know, it's hard out here for a
pimp.

Unidentified Man: Shug, I'm going to need you sing out, OK, baby?

Ms. HENSON: (As Shug) OK.

Mr. HOWARD: (As DJay) Shug, feel that.

Ms. HENSON: (As Shug) (Singing) You know, it's hard out here for a pimp when
he's trying to get this money for the rent.

Mr. HOWARD: (As DJay) Push it out! Come on!

Ms. HENSON: (As Shug) (Singing) You know, it's hard out here for a pimp when
he's trying to get this money for the rent, for the Cadillacs and gas money
spent. You know, it's hard out here for a pimp when he's trying to get this
money for the rent, for the Cadillacs and gas money spent.

Unidentified Man: That's it right there! That's the money tank! You got
that?

Mr. ANDERSON: (As Key) Yeah, hold on. We're going to see in a minute.

Mr. HOWARD: (As DJay) ...(Unintelligible).

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. HENSON: (As Shug) (Singing) You know, it's hard out here for a pimp when
he's trying to get this money for the rent.

EDELSTEIN: A large part of the legend of "Hustle & Flow" is its electric
reception at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival: standing ovation, $9 million
advance from Paramount and MTV Films. You can picture all those white
executives in their furs and parkas pouring out into the frigid Utah night,
chanting, `Whoop that trick! Whoop that trick!'

Apart from the idea that a pimp can be an artist--that's gotta resonate in
Hollywood--there is something genuinely compelling about this movie. The
first-time director and writer Craig Brewer gets the hustle and flow into the
filmmaking. The camera work is handheld and swervy and dangerously in the
moment, so you get knotted up as DJay approaches every hurdle. You feel that
his very existence is always on the line. The movie builds to an almost
unbearable sequence in which DJay takes a CD of "Whoop That Trick" to a
hip-hop star known as Skinny Black played by the hip-hop star known a
Ludacris. Skinny's back in him Memphis hometown for only a night, and DJay
must go for broke and make this man understand the depth of his soul and of
his music.

"Hustle & Flow" is quite a trick, yessiree. It's tough to believe that a
director could get a modern audience to identify with a hero who makes art out
of complaining about his whores being late with the rent. When DJay needs a
high-end microphone, he turns to a pretty little blonde white hooker named
Nola, played by Taryn Manning, to prevail upon the salesman for a better deal.

Brewer didn't need that scene. He could have found ways to sweeten DJay or
make Nola feel less violated, but then the movie wouldn't have the edge that
fools an audience into thinking it's seeing unmediated realism instead of the
usual inspirational rags-to-riches cliches. The flouting of political
correctness is part of the hustle. There's no proof that Brewer doesn't share
his character's misogyny and opportunism. He sticks his camera under
Manning's little skirt the way DJay would have if he'd been directing. But,
you know, it's hard out there for a director.

DAVIES: David Edelstein is film critic for Slate.

(Credits)

DAVIES: For Terry Gross. I'm Dave Davies.
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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