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Book News

Book could have been a contender

'Naked Pictures of Famous People'
by Jon Stewart

William Morrow & Co, $24

Review by Tom Faucett

April 20, 1999
Web posted at: 4:55 p.m. EDT (2055 GMT)

(CNN) -- With the release of "Naked Pictures of Famous People," a collection of 18 comedic essays, comic Jon Stewart has completed the multimedia hat trick of author, late night TV talk show host (Comedy Central's "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart"), and actor (recent roles in "Playing by Heart" and "The Faculty"). Why aren't standup comedians ever satisfied with just being standup comedians?

If you're not familiar with Stewart's brand of humor, the cover photo of a naked Abraham Lincoln illustrates that Stewart is as irreverent as he is funny. Further evidence can be found in the book's acknowledgments, when Stewart thanks his editor for "his skilled and persistent knowledge without which I never would have developed gastrointestinal problems."

The essays target a wide range of political, historical, and pop cultural icons. Domestic mogul Martha Stewart, Vincent Van Gogh, and the bubble gum rock band Hanson are just a few of those skewered by Stewart.

Unfortunately, with a few rare exceptions, the essays are underdeveloped and flimsy, while some are simply muddled and incoherent. Cutting the number of essays in half, and really developing them, would have resulted in a much stronger offering.

The high note of "Naked Pictures" is the dead-on parody entitled, "Adolf Hitler: The Larry King Interview." Stewart, who is Jewish and often incorporates this fact into his humor, deftly pokes fun at a potentially touchy and unpolitically correct subject with his sardonic humor.

Hitler, we learn, has resurfaced to plug his new book, "Mein Comfortable Shoes" on CNN's "Larry King Live," and who better to interview the Fuhrer than the "King of Talk"? Hitler explains that his new autobiography is "about an angry man who learns to appreciate the little things in life. It's about acceptance."

Hitler reveals among other things, that his rise to power was merely an elaborate ploy to meet women. "I learned long ago that Bavarian art majors with oily hair and weaselly mustaches weren't getting the ladies." He gives a first-hand account of that fateful night in his bunker when he was believed to have committed suicide. Turns out, Eva Braun and Himmler had staged an intervention, begging him to stop with the "conquer and purify thing." So he shot them and escaped.

He offers glimpses of his new life, his penchant for Jumbles, bagels, and Orange Juliuses from the mall. His future plans include ballroom dancing lessons, and "mastering the musical frailties of the French horn."

Stewart also nails Larry King's mannerisms, "It's a terrific read. Folks, if you read no other book this summer, make it "Mein Comfortable Shoes."

I wish I could say the same thing about "Naked Pictures of Famous People."

Tom Faucett is a freelance writer who lives in Charlotte, North Carolina.

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