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Dave Chappelle and Jon Stewart, Two of the Most Important Voices in Contemporary Culture; Comedians Performing in U.S. and Europe, Tackling Issues like Gun Violence, Twitter Era and Raising Kids in 2018. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired December 24, 2018 - 13:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:00:00] CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Amanpour." During the Christmas holidays, we're
dipping into the archive and looking back at some of these years' highlights. So, here's what's coming up.
Two comic geniuses who share a rare ability to mind mine hope in these troubled times. A thoughtful, surprising and, yes, funny conversation with
Jon Stewart and Dave Chappelle.
Plus, our Hari Sreenivasan looks on the bright side with comedy great, Eric Idol, founding member of "Monty Python's Flying Circus."
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in New York.
America seems more divided than at any time in our recent memory, coming apart at the seams you might say. So, what better time to talk to Dave
Chappelle and Jon Stewart, legends of American comedy and two of the most important voices in contemporary culture.
Both have redefined the boundaries of storytelling. With his sketches on "Chappelle's Show," Dave skewers racial stereotypes and he is an
international sensation. And Jon ever since helming "The Daily Show" became almost more relevant than traditional news anchors with his satire
laser focus on the truth and lies of current political discourse.
Away from the small screen, though, stand-up is a vital part of any comedian's DNA and the two teamed up for rare performances in the United
States and Europe, tackling issues like gun violence, the Twitter era and what it's like to raise kids in 2018 amid mounting political uncertainty.
I caught up with them at London's Royal Albert Hall to see whether comedy can, indeed, at this time help to bridge the political divide.
Jon Stewart, Dave Chappelle, welcome to the program.
DAVE CHAPPELLE, COMEDIAN: Thank you.
JON STEWART, FORMER HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART": Thank you.
AMANPOUR: Well, firstly, what is it like doing a comedy in here in Albert Hall? Have you ever been in such a hall?
CHAPPELLE: Is there such a hall?
STEWART: No, I don't think there is. It was very royal. It was -- you felt royal. It was -- you felt wrapped in velvet.
AMANPOUR: So, what brings you two together? I know you've done things together before but why now, why here?
CHAPPELLE: Well, it started when I was doing a residency at Radio City. And part of the residency I would have, you know, different comedians and
musicians, we would all come. It was kind of like a great collective or curation of talent.
And this particular night, it was the day that riot happened in Charlottesville.
AMANPOUR: Oh, yes.
CHAPPELLE: You could feel it in the room, that people lose little palpable feelings around it and Jon Stewart showed up that night. And when he went
on, really, like either Jon or Obama are the only people that would have got -- literally, the only ones to get --
STEWART: Obama is a type five on Charlottesville that would have crushed.
CHAPPELLE: No, you could feel the crowed like it was a sigh of relief. You were like a visual queue to be rational and like the set you did that
day was so powerful.
AMANPOUR: Well, this opens up a lot of questions. First and foremost, I was just reading about Lenny Bruce, the great comedian.
AMANPOUR: I think 50 years since he died but all of a sudden, having a resurgence, off Broadway play about to happen, he features in an Amazon
prime series. But --
CHAPPELLE: Lenny Bruce?
AMANPOUR: Lenny Bruce.
CHAPPELLE: His career is going better now.
AMANPOUR: Yes. He's career is going better now. He's having a revival.
CHAPPELLE: He changed agents.
AMANPOUR: But people are saying that, you know, the same things that he was satirizing and making, you know, part of his comedy back then exist
right now. The assault on free speech, the, you know, partitioning of the country along race and religious lines, the protests on the streets and in
Congress. And I wonder whether that affects you and whether you internalize that given what you just said about a rational voice.
STEWART: Well, I don't know about a rational voice but I think we always internalize what's around us. We're comedians and I think we feed off of
whatever the food is of the day that's coming around.
I don't know that, you know, in terms of a resurgence of the country and being divided along racial and class lines and gender lines and all of
that, I feel like that's always with us. It is just at times it's maybe bubbles up more explicitly, but even when you don't say it out loud it
still exists and it's always, you know, foundational. And so, I don't know that it ever goes away.
AMANPOUR: Do you think it is more acute right now?
CHAPPELLE: The division?
CHAPPELLE: No. Man, no. In fact, some of the things they say -- even when they say that Russia influenced the election, it's kind of like, is
Russia making us racist? Is that who's doing it? OK. I thought it was us. I got --
CHAPPELLE: I thought it was us.
AMANPOUR: I haven't thought of it that way.
AMANPOUR: I haven't thought of it that way.
CHAPPELLE: Yes. If they kill the country that way, then we're the murder weapon.
AMANPOUR: So --
STEWART: We have always been.
AMANPOUR: Is the Trump era a good era for comedians? Is it just unbelievable fodder or not?
CHAPPELLE: I would not even name the era after him.
CHAPPELLE: He's getting too much credit.
AMANPOUR: Well, he's the president.
STEWART: He is the president.
CHAPPELLE: He is not making the wave. He's surfing it.
STEWART: Yes. Then, he's just always been there.
CHAPPELLE: He just -- all he does is sing those people's greatest hits. Build a wall. All these things we have heard before. He just sings all
the songs. He is the only one been brash enough to do it.
AMANPOUR: He's been a lot more aggressive towards journalists and reporters. I wonder what you think. I mean, obviously, we're speaking in
a moment when, you know, one of the colleagues has butchered in cold blood.
CHAPPELLE: Right. In Saudi.
AMANPOUR: In a consulate.
AMANPOUR: In Turkey.
CHAPPELLE: That's terrifying.
AMANPOUR: And in that environment, President Trump talks about a candidate running for office who has body slammed a reporter. I'm going to play a
little bit of what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: Any guy that could do a body slam, he's my kind of -- he's my guy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: What do you make of that? Because I asked you because you were sort of the gray beard of journalism, almost. I know you hate that. But
when anchors started to be less authoritative than they used to maybe, you know, 20 years ago, you were, for better or for worse, considered somebody
with authority every night.
STEWART: I think we were the protest vote to a large extent. We were none of the above. So, people would say, you know, "Who's the most trusted news
anchor?" And they would list the four network anchors and then they would throw in, you know, my name, none of the above and everybody's like, none
of the above and they would circle it and I would go there.
You know, I think that he is a performer. When we do our shows, we do our shows. And no matter if we're sitting in Royal Albert Hall or like when we
were in Copenhagen and we went to this little room called the zoo there was, you know, a 100 Danish speaking somewhat surprised people to see us,
and we sat there and we did our show and we did it. But Donald Trump is a salesman who changes his pitch depending on who he's in front of. What he
doesn't realize is it's all being recorded.
And so, his pitch to that audience is the us versus them. We're all the victims of this liberal media, of these soft journalists who come out here
and lie about us. We're really great people. And that's what he pitches to them and if you ask him about it and say, "Do you think that's OK to
body slam a reporter?" "No, no, no. Of course not. That's -- you know, do not do that. But I was joking. It was a little joke I was making in front
AMANPOUR: Before we go forward, let's go back to the day after the election. You were hosting "Saturday Night Live" right after the election.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHAPPELLE: Wasn't Donald Trump -- and I'm going do give him a chance and we, the historically disenfranchised, demand he give us one, too. Thank
you very much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Did that dream, desire come true? Has he given you a chance? Do you still want to give him a chance?
CHAPPELLE: I think I said the right thing at the right time.
CHAPPELLE: You know what I mean? I think that we had to recalibrate and kind of put things in perspective. You know, I'm a Black American, so
we've -- these feelings that people felt right after the election, we felt that many elections consecutively. And I think that, to some degree,
people overreacted. Like the alternative to giving him a chance was storming the streets and if something's good on television they're doing
it. I just feel like --
STEWART: HBO has a lot of offerings right now to keep you from storming.
CHAPPELLE: Yes. "Game of Thrones" is on?
STEWART: That's what I think.
CHAPPELLE: Can't make the riot tonight. But I don't know. Is he doing a good job? Am I happy with what he's doing? No. It's been very difficult
to watch the last couple of years.
STEWART: Harder than I thought it would be in that there was a part of me that thought when you'd get in that room and it's nighttime and there's no
one around and Teddy Roosevelt and Abe Lincoln and everybody's up on the walls and staring at you that that brings a certain cognitive weight to
what you're feeling.
And I imagine he walked in that room, he's like, "Take that down. Take that down. Take that down. Put up dogs playing poker." Kind of felt like,
"Get some French fries around here." You know, I think that oddly enough he transformed the White House and the White House wasn't able to transform
AMANPOUR: Back in 2015, when he announced for president, you didn't take it entirely seriously.
STEWART: The man came down an escalator.
AMANPOUR: Can I just play what you said?
STEWART: Oh, sure.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEWART: Like many of you, I heard some interesting let's call news today about a certain, let's say, gift from heaven, entering the presidential
race because apparently Huckabee/Santorum wasn't farfetched enough. I got to tell you, the world right now is Whites are Black. Trump's running for
president. Like --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Should you have taken him more seriously? I mean, you're the oracle, Jon.
STEWART: Yes, now. I didn't think -- I thought America was going to go, "Is that an escalator in in a mall? I'm not going to vote for that dude."
Like I didn't think -- A, I didn't think he meant it. And when he gave that speech, quite frankly, I really thought when he said, you know,
"Mexico sends us the worst, rapists and murderers," I really thought he had disqualified himself.
AMANPOUR: Not to mention what he said about women.
STEWART: About women, about everything that he said there. And I thought, "This is disqualifying," for me, though. And clearly, I don't speak for --
you know, he's been very effective at like what Dave said, surfing the waves that have been -- I'm watching the midterms. Man, you would think
the country is Mad Max Thunderdome. This guy is like -- they're coming from Guatemala, they're coming from Mexico. There's a liberal mob that's
coming. Muslims. And you would think everybody in the country's just like, to the bunker. To the ramparts.
AMANPOUR: To that point, it is written about you, Dave, that --
CHAPPELLE: It has been written.
AMANPOUR: -- it has been said you have a singular gift for blurring left and right, red and blue states. What do you think that means, that
somehow, you're able to sort of surf, bring them together, not necessarily get stuck in the political divide?
CHAPPELLE: Because most of the political discussion is so binary and I'm way more interesting than that. It's just a dude.
AMANPOUR: You are way more interested than --
CHAPPELLE: Yes. Most people are.
STEWART: Most people are.
CHAPPELLE: If you talk to them. You know, I have people say, you know, family's not speaking to one another because of politics. That sounds
insane to me. Like there's a ton of people that I love and respect that I completely disagree with.
AMANPOUR: So, do you think -- because, obviously, we are all caught up in this sort of daily Trump fest. I mean, every single newspaper, every radio
station, every bit of social media --
STEWART: You got to make money, too.
AMANPOUR: Well, it's dissecting --
STEWART: You have bills to pay. Man, you got electric bills, you got food. You know, this guy is -- he's giving you all cash. The cash flow in
the Trump era for these TV stations and for these news --
AMANPOUR: Can I say, that might have been an issue and maybe it still is an issue for the people who are the bean counters.
AMANPOUR: But we the journalists, we, I think, believe that our job is to navigate the truth and to do the fact checking and all the rest of it. So,
I think that's what most --
STEWART: But I think the journalists have taken it personally.
AMANPOUR: OK. That's interesting.
STEWART: They are personally wounded and offended by this man. He baits them. And they dive in. And what he's done well, I thought, is appeal to
their own narcissism, to their own ego. Because what he says is these are the -- and the journalists stand up and say, "We are noble. We are
honorable. How dare you, sir?" and they take it personally.
And now, he has changed the conversation to not that his policies are silly or not working or any of those other things, it's all about the fight. He
is able to tune out everything else and get people just focused on the fight. And he's going to win that fight.
AMANPOUR: You know, even Bob Woodward said that, in his book on the Trump White House, that a lot of journalists are too emotional about this. But
it's hard for us to be dispassionate when words from the White House are aggressive against us and, you know, raise the spectrum of violence against
STEWART: You're not used to it. Think of the communities --
AMANPOUR: No, no, we are used to it. Believe me.
STEWART: But think of the communities --
AMANPOUR: We've been out there in the field.
STEWART: -- of color. Think of Muslims. Think of the Black community, people. You know, when journalists rise to this outrage of how dare you
say this about us, think about the lives that they have been leading under this and --
AMANPOUR: All right.
STEWART: -- what they have been put under.
AMANPOUR: So, you have said, artists can transcend race like nobody can.
AMANPOUR: So, tell me about that. Tell me how you do that and why you do in it a way that others can't.
CHAPPELLE: I mean, even if we look like in the early days of bebop and jazz, like the bandstand was integrated decades before the country was.
The artists, we look and it's -- artist is such a beautiful thing to look at that even one can forget certain lines that one should not transgress
socially in the pursuit of art. If someone's good at something, you want to be with that person. No matter what color, race, gender, if they got
did gift. Artists are -- transcends everything.
STEWART: Hopefully, it articulates something human, not something purely sectarian.
AMANPOUR: And comedy -- Steve Martin said this and others have said it and you have said it in a different way --
STEWART: You got a good research department.
AMANPOUR: Yes, yes.
STEWART: Of course --
AMANPOUR: Comedy is not always nice. It can be really mean and it can push boundaries to a place where some people feel real -- really offended.
Is that because everybody is a snowflake or does comedy -- should comedy have certain boundaries at all?
STEWART: Well, I think there's somewhat separate questions.
AMANPOUR: Are they?
STEWART: Comedy's boundaries should be excellence. So, whatever it is that you're talking about in terms of subject matter, if you're just
napalming, you know, indiscriminately to provoke, then to me, that's not really comedy.
Comedy should be something more human and truly believed and -- but I don't put any line on it. And I'm always fascinated when they say, you know,
"Where do comedians draw the line?" But nobody ever goes and says to Donald Trump, "Where do presidents draw the line?" You know, we add insult
sometimes to injury. But --
CHAPPELLE: Horse face. I think you should --
STEWART: Horse face.
CHAPPELLE: -- draw the line at horse face.
STEWART: Right. But --
AMANPOUR: Which, as we know, is what he called Stormy Daniels.
STEWART: That's right.
STEWART: But I'm more -- again, I'm less interested in his insults and more interested in his injuries, in the people that are being hurt. Not
the people that are being insulted but are being hurt.
AMANPOUR: I was going to ask you about Louis C.K.
AMANPOUR: Because, obviously, everybody's talking about it, you know, and --
STEWART: I don't know about everybody.
AMANPOUR: Well, a lot of people.
STEWART: All right. Because my mom hasn't mentioned it.
AMANPOUR: Has she never?
STEWART: She's never mentioned it.
AMANPOUR: She's never said, "Jon, would you have done that?"
STEWART: She never said, "Jon, are you -- is Louis C.K. going to go back on stage?" She really -- she's more -- she think about other things.
AMANPOUR: Well, you said comedy is not particularly a very friendly place for women in comedy.
STEWART: It has not been, no.
AMANPOUR: Do you think that might change?
STEWART: Well, hopefully it changes --
STEWART: -- in all --
AMANPOUR: The better question is, why is it not friendly for women?
STEWART: Well, that's a good question. You know, the roots of it, I don't know. I mean, I think it started out as a male dominated field. It's not
a particularly welcoming field. You sort of have to come out there and cut your teeth on it.
I think in general, most things are not -- I'll tell you a story. So, we had on "The Daily Show" there was an article about us said, you know, it's
a sexist environment. We didn't have women writers. And I got very offended by that. You know, I was very mad. I was like, "You're saying
I'm not -- " you know, I was raised by a single mother. She wore a t-shirt that said a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle. And me and my
brother were like, "I think we might be men. This is terrible."
So, I was mad. You know, how can they say such a thing? And I went back to the writers' room, and I was like, "Do you believe this, Steve? What do
you think, Greg? Dave? Tom? Mike?" And then I was like, "Oh."
STEWART: And it was right. But the reason it was right was not necessarily one that we had seen before. Our ignorance to it was such that
-- so, we had put in a system of getting writers where there were no names on it. We thought that's color blind, gender blind, et cetera. But what
you don't realize is the system itself, the tributaries that feed us those submissions, is polluted, as well.
So, all we are getting are White males who had been to (INAUDIBLE) Colleges and wrote for the lampoon or, you know, funny Jewish guys from Brown. And
so, what you had to say then is, "Send me not that. Send me your women. Send me people of color." And then, we would get the submissions and go,
"I can't believe how funny women have gotten just recently."
STEWART: But do you see what I'm saying?
AMANPOUR: I do see what you're saying, yes.
STEWART: It's a systemic issue. And I think what can mostly help change is when you open up new tributaries to bring in talent and then they grow
and then they help grow their community --
AMANPOUR: 100 percent.
STEWART: -- and tell their stories, and that's the most important thing.
AMANPOUR: 100 percent. Can I just move from gender to race then, because, obviously, there have been very, very, very funny Black comedians or
African-American comedians? And I read, also, that, you know, obviously, Bill Cosby was a hero to many in the Black and White community, frankly.
And I think he was at one point a hero to you.
CHAPPELLE: Oh, absolutely.
AMANPOUR: Yes. If he was your hero, how difficult was it -- how hard was it for you to get to grips with the transgressions against women?
CHAPPELLE: It was -- it's a nightmare to see a hero fall that heinously. Like literally -- I talked about it on one of my specials and someone had
said I was defending him and I was like, "Defending him? I was mourning." Like, the loss of a hero. It's a terrible thing. It was a terrible,
terrible thing to watch.
I got to tell you, seeing him get perp walked at 81 was devastating for every Black comedian, every -- like, oh, my God, this is terrible. I joked
about it before. I will say, "All my heroes was either murdered by the government or registered sex offenders." It is a sad state of affairs.
AMANPOUR: So, then, what is the right way for anybody to rehabilitate themselves? Louis C.K. who I started to talk about, you know, did what he
did, you know, without consent of the women who he did it in front of. And then he pops into the comedy cellar in the village and he does an act,
again, without consent of the audience, they didn't know he was going to be there. Be that as it may, what is the --
STEWART: That's why I always get consent of the audience. I go around and I make sure that everybody signs.
CHAPPELLE: You guys cool with me going on right now?
STEWART: Cool, right? I'm going to go on in 15.
AMANPOUR: But here's the situation.
AMANPOUR: The guy who runs the comedy cellar --
AMANPOUR: -- got into some flak for it, so did Louis C.K. for not even talking about it, not acknowledging it, now apologizing or whatever.
CHAPPELLE: I don't know that he didn't acknowledge it. I read that --
AMANPOUR: Well, apparently, he didn't --
AMANPOUR: -- according to the initial reporting and the initial appearance.
CHAPPELLE: I mean, I know I read in the paper but I also know what I heard on the streets.
CHAPPELLE: And of course, from a comic -- we know a few eyewitnesses.
STEWART: It's a slightly different version.
STEWART: But, either way, the point is --
AMANPOUR: Either way, what should be the right way for society to deal with somebody like Louis C.K.? Should he be forever banned from his job or
should he be reprimanded or should there be --
STEWART: Well, I think the question itself is somewhat unanswerable. You know, when you talk about the right way in society to rehabilitate, it's
something we have struggle within the criminal justice system forever.
CHAPPELLE: Yes. We know how rehabilitative that system is.
STEWART: Right. So --
AMANPOUR: No. But this is much different because there are shades of gray in this whole area and there's been a lot of Black and White activity since
#MeToo began and now, people are saying, especially men, there needs to be some kind of parameters that we all know.
STEWART: But it's nascent. It's nascent. It's in its embryonic stages.
AMANPOUR: So, what should he do to come back on stage or is he doing the right thing?
STEWART: Well, that said, you know, again, you -- there is no recipe, there is no model that can be put together and say if he did one, two and
three everybody will be cool. I don't think it works that way. This is something that we find together as a society. But it's not -- I don't know
that you can say there's a formula here that makes sense.
I'm a believer in restorative justice, in the idea that when transgressions occur that the parties must participate, together to bring themselves to
some conclusion. But the truth is, you won't find 100 percent. You can't say, "What's the right way to do this so that everybody will be OK?"
because they won't.
CHAPPELLE: Yes. Where is the forum to build the consensus?
CHAPPELLE: Yes. I don't see --
STEWART: We're a society now of reactionary. You know, we have taken on - -
STEWART: News has taken on the circadian rhythm of Twitter as thought that -- and it is our most emotional form of communication.
AMANPOUR: Now, Jon --
STEWART: I'm sorry.
AMANPOUR: -- I'm going to push back on you there.
AMANPOUR: We are doing our job here. We are trying to, you know, navigate a new normal that has been thrust on the world.
STEWART: But would you say that there is an overemphasis within many in the mainstream media, on Twitter, as a reliable arbiter of the emotional
state of an issue?
AMANPOUR: I think less. I think Twitter is having less of an effect on us. But I do think you are right in that every tweet is dissected. And I
grapple with the idea of overemotionally --
STEWART: I would like to see you grapple.
AMANPOUR: I'm grappling, believe me , every night I grapple. I grapple with the issues versus --
STEWART: I like it.
AMANPOUR: -- the hysteria --
STEWART: That's right.
AMANPOUR: -- and the emotion. Most --
STEWART: And I think 140 or 280 characters is not a welcomed forum for that type of grappling but it's certainly a seductive forum.
AMANPOUR: But our hour-long show is a very welcomed forum and a great forum.
STEWART: Very welcome. That's why I never miss it. What time is it on and what day?
AMANPOUR: Now --
STEWART: I'm not on Twitter.
CHAPPELLE: Yes. See, me neither.
AMANPOUR: That's -- well, that's interesting because that's now going to - -
CHAPPELLE: That's my new movement. Me neither.
AMANPOUR: So, that --
CHAPPELLE: No hash tag now because we're not on Twitter.
AMANPOUR: You famously walked away from a very, very lucrative career on comedy central. People say there was like $50 million left on the table.
And what was your issue with fame and fortune and publicity?
CHAPPELLE: I don't know if my issue was with fame and fortune. But I do know that after -- the other side of that was after I left, I didn't think
that I would ever work in this capacity again. And I redefined success for myself. I raised some kids. I had a happy life. You know what I mean?
AMANPOUR: OK. That's really important. Flesh that out.
CHAPPELLE: Having --
CHAPPELLE: Having a happy life?
CHAPPELLE: I get up in the morning. My days are fairly predictable. Most of the things that I do I because I want to not because I have to. Kids
are healthy. No one's mad at me. No one's afraid of anything real -- there's nothing probably to be afraid to be of. We laugh a lot. I see
friends of mine on a fairly regular basis and there's a happy life.
AMANPOUR: So, I said, you know, you tend -- you're known for blurring lines between various sides of the coin. You yourself are African-
American, you're Muslim, you don't talk much about your religion, you are married to a Filipino, you have three biracial children. It's a very --
it's a polyglot. I mean, it's a melting pot right there.
CHAPPELLE: Yeah, I guess. But I only -- you know, I --
STEWART: You make it sound conscious.
STEWART: I think, you know, you're --
CHAPPELLE: I love who I love.
STEWART: I think often times -- he loves who he loves. But people are defining those lines as though they're not supposed to be blurred. But if
you don't define those lines, then he's not blurring. He doesn't -- his family is not a blur.
CHAPPELLE: The last 12 years were.
STEWART: That's a beautiful unit. It's -- I don't -- those lines can be defined by others but that's not --
AMANPOUR: But others are.
CHAPPELLE: The lines don't -- a life well lived, I think these lines will mean less and less. You know, legitimately --
AMANPOUR: I mean, I hope so.
CHAPPELLE: It doesn't mean I'm not aware of the lines but, you know, I'm fortunate enough that I can transcend them on many occasions.
AMANPOUR: I mean, I started by asking you why here and other. What is it that you two want to say together to the world today?
CHAPPELLE: I'm glad you asked.
AMANPOUR: Beyond just lucrative, you know, comedy and all the -- you know, what is your manifesto, Jon?
STEWART: Again, I think that there is --
CHAPPELLE: I'm glad you asked.
STEWART: -- a slight misconception. So, we started out in comedy together. I have known Dave since he was a 17-year-old young man who came
into the Comedy Cellar and just blew us all away with -- you don't see people with that just ability and insight at that age.
And it -- and I think, from that moment, I've just always been so respectful and honored to be around him and to listen to him and talk to
him. He's such a thoughtful and insightful individual.
CHAPPELLE: Thanks, man.
STEWART: And comedy is about, for us, the hang. It is about the hang. It is about getting to a certain point where you go out. It -- when you're
starting out, it can be very solitary and you are on the road and in places you don't know and they're not necessarily tricked out theaters where Queen
Victoria has her own box. You know, you are in Walnut Creek and you're staying on the side of a road somewhere.
And for me, this has been a wonderful just reconnection to that life I had but at a much better level and place. And I feel like part of what we do
here is just have a really great time together and have a great time with the friends and family that are with us and communicate with the audience
is our thing and react with them and interact with them. And it's just -- it's a wonderful way to spend a week.
CHAPPELLE: I think what -- and one thing Jon brings -- I have been touring forever. One of the things that's special about touring with him is,
collectively, I think the crowd listens differently than the average comedy crowd.
I think a lot of people see our names on the bill and they come to get like the political word but it's not even that, it really is just a great comedy
show. And I love traveling the world this way because --
CHAPPELLE: - you know, a lot of people been to Copenhagen but a lot of people don't know what the crowd in Copenhagen feels like or London feels
like. It is a great way to engage a city or a place.
AMANPOUR: And how is it different? Can you tell me what's different between the crowd in New York and Copenhagen and London?
CHAPPELLE: Sadly, because of the internet, sadly, places aren't as diverse as they used to be. Everything -- everyone does kind of eat from the same
trough now. However, European crowds listen more than they do in America. America, it's not that they don't listen in the States, but, you know, we
are a raucous bunch and here they have really good performance etiquette. If they go to see a show, they go to see a show.
STEWART: Wildly polite.
AMANPOUR: And that's good?
CHAPPELLE: Yes. It's an adjustment. We had to get used to it.
AMANPOUR: Yes. I mean, do you get -- as much feedback?
STEWART: Well, it's a different -- well, first of all, when we first were performing, it was Copenhagen and it was --
STEWART: -- Stockholm. And so, there -- we like to think that comedy is somewhat nuanced of language and somewhat precise of language and that
those nuances mean something. And they're taking it in as their second language.
And so, I thought there would be a lag where they would go on like Google translate.
CHAPPELLE: And just be like --
STEWART: Oh, yes. That's nice. Like it would have been performing at the U.N. where everybody has headphones and then they'll hear it finally in
Swedish and go, "Yes. Son of a bitch, that's funny." But it wasn't. They really took to it very naturally but there is definitely a sense of they
really want to hear you. Like I don't know that in the stage we've ever performed somewhere where people were just like, you know, this is exciting
for us and we --
[13:30:00] STEWART: Hear it finally in Swedish and go, "Yes. Son of a bitch, that's funny." But it wasn't. They really took to it very
naturally but there is definitely a sense of they really want to hear you. Like I don't know that in the stage we've ever performed somewhere where
people were just like, you know, this is exciting for us and we really want to hear what you are saying.
CHAPPELLE: The American rules of engagement are different.
STEWART: The expectation of comedy is different. In America, there's more of a sense of like we are also part of the show. I'm going to throw my two
cents in and that's going to make it, you know, even better. I have had hecklers many times come up afterwards and go like, "I helped you out
there, didn't I?" Actually, I had some things planned out so you didn't really.
But I've enjoyed seeing -- I've never really gotten to travel, seeing the lifestyle of like Copenhagen, seeing -- and I will say this too, it's
really interesting and even a Scandinavian country, they don't blur the lines. They don't have the same divisions in some respects that we have
racially or religiously. It's very interesting.
AMANPOUR: That's why when I asked you these questions, I come from a slightly different perspective than the United States.
AMANPOUR: You just said, you know, you like the hang. I assume you mean hanging out.
AMANPOUR: Is that the hang?
STEWART: I like to throw that slang around.
AMANPOUR: And I got to try to pick it up.
STEWART: I like to hang when I'm gigging.
CHAPPELLE: Is it the same in journalism? Do you like --
AMANPOUR: Yes, we like to hang. Yes, especially on the road. Especially on the road. That's really -- that's a little bit like what you do.
CHAPPELLE: It's the same.
AMANPOUR: But with bullets and bombs and things flying.
CHAPPELLE: Right. And you talk about, you know, your perspective on working on a story.
AMANPOUR: Yes, we really like it. It's the comradery. It's all being on the same --
CHAPPELLE: Yes, shoulder to shoulder.
AMANPOUR: -- space, same level, shoulder to shoulder. And hanging --
STEWART: Right. And being out of your comfort zone.
AMANPOUR: And being out of your comfort zone.
CHAPPELLE: Yes, yes.
AMANPOUR: So are you happy out of your comfort zone since "The Daily Show"? Do you miss it? Do you wish you were still there given the Trump
era which you refuse to allow me to say?
CHAPPELLE: Can we call this the Lil Wayne era?
STEWART: Now that Carter 5 is out, we have to call it the Lil Wayne era. It was time for me to leave the show.
AMANPOUR: I know you said that before.
STEWART: That was the right choice.
AMANPOUR: Yes, that you said before.
STEWART: Yes, I'm slightly different than Dave. I waited until I got paid. Similar. I went and I'm raising kids and trying, you know, but also
trying to live a more I think richer balanced life. I was really focused on that. I knew it was my last shot. It was something I believed
passionately in but I did it to the best of my ability as far as I could go.
CHAPPELLE: Of course. Did you do stand-up when you were gone?
STEWART: Very little. Like I would do it on the weekends and stuff, you know? But not a ton and I miss that.
AMANPOUR: You mean, when you were doing "The Daily Show", you didn't do stand-up?
STEWART: That's right.
AMANPOUR: Is that what you asked?
STEWART: I thought -- yes, is that what you mean?
AMANPOUR: No, afterwards.
CHAPPELLE: No, after you left the show.
AMANPOUR: Yes, I thought he meant afterwards.
STEWART: It took me a while. It really ignited the night that Dave was at Radio City and he had been curating these great shows. And he had Chance
the Rapper and Hannibal Burris and John Meyer on this one show. And I came out because I was -- I had been watching Charlottesville all day.
And I came on and I said, Dave, can I just come on and do like 10? Great. And I just -- I remembered how much I love that forum and the immediacy of
it and the hang of it and being surrounded by your peers.
CHAPPELLE: I got to say one thing that's very impressive. The fact that he hasn't been doing stand-up and will come back and perform at the level
that he has been.
CHAPPELLE: He's beyond muscleman, that's badass.
STEWART: We have had great shows, just great. And the way that the crowd reacts, it's just been an amazing experience. We have done stuff in
Atlanta, and Houston, El Paso, and Europe, and Iceland.
AMANPOUR: And you're going to direct again. Is that right?
STEWART: Yes, I wrote something that I'm going to direct.
AMANPOUR: Do we know what it is?
STEWART: I don't. I haven't read it. I wrote it but I haven't read it.
AMANPOUR: So you don't want to tell us.
STEWART: Don't tell me how it ends.
AMANPOUR: You don't want to tell me what's good? And you guys just watched "A Star is Born".
AMANPOUR: It was amazing.
STEWART: Made me cry.
AMANPOUR: Your performance or the film?
STEWART: The film.
AMANPOUR: Yes, me too.
CHAPPELLE: Yes, I also cried.
AMANPOUR: But I was absolutely staggered by the electricity between Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga. You see an actor trying out being a singer
in public for the first time as far as we know and a singer trying out to be an actor for the first time. And two at the top of their game trying
each other's thing. I thought that was phenomenal.
CHAPPELLE: It was amazing to see up close, man. It was amazing. It's funny. I met Bradley Cooper here in London when he was doing a show on the
west end and I knew he was cooking up something.
AMANPOUR: Elephant Man.
CHAPPELLE: Yes, he was doing Elephant Man and he was working on "A Star is Born".
AMANPOUR: And [13:35:00] how did you get the part?
CHAPPELLE: He asked me. I didn't know if it was going to be good. I've never seen any of the other movies but he just asked. I've only done two
movies in the last 18 years. One was with Spike because he just asked me and one was with Bradley because he asked me.
STEWART: Spike was here last night too. When you hang with Dave, there's a carnival of talent that comes with it. There was Spike Lee and Janet
Jackson and Naomi Campbell, all these people that he has cultivated. He is a great curator of talent.
And so I have been very happy to bask in the reflective light of that although I also had a visitor. I think it was in Stockholm. It was my
kids' fifth-grade teacher's sister came, not as accomplished but still --
AMANPOUR: Be careful. She is going to get offended.
STEWART: She is going to get offended.
AMANPOUR: Yes. I would say she's just as accomplished but in a different way.
STEWART: I think she knows she is not at Janet Jackson's level. I think she feels that but that's what's -- you know? He can -- and I don't know
how it happens but he draws in talents from these various areas and they come together and it's like those salons, like those old kinds of what you
imagine the way it used to be and it creates a really nice alchemy, a really interesting vibe.
CHAPPELLE: You know, it is funny, I don't do press. I only did this so I could meet you.
STEWART: See? Now you are in the group.
AMANPOUR: Oh, I want to hang on your group.
CHAPPELLE: I'm serious.
AMANPOUR: No, I'd love to be.
Jon Stewart, Dave Chappelle, thank you so much.
CHAPPELLE: My pleasure.
STEWART: Nice to see you.
AMANPOUR: Pleasure. Nice to see you.
CHAPPELLE: Jon, you know everybody.
CHAPPELLE: That's the other thing.
AMANPOUR: So we're going to switch tone a little bit. Nonetheless, freedom of speech has long been a topic of debate even within the world of
comedy. For their time, few faced more controversy over this than British comedian's Monty Python.
Eric Idle was a founding python. He has been clapping his coconuts for five decades, reminding us to always look on the bright side of life. In
his new sortabiography, Eric finds his voice in the 60's cultural revolution and recounts the famous faces and the knights of me that he met
along the way. Eric Idle took our Hari Sreenivasan on a laugh down memory lane.
HARI SREENIVASAN, CONTRIBUTOR, CNN: You've decided on a memoir. Why?
ERIC IDLE, AUTHOR, ALWAYS LOOK ON THE BRIGHT SIDE OF LIFE: Well, our 50th anniversary of Monty Python is coming up next year and I thought we're
going to have to answer questions. So let me see what I can remember and write it down before I forget it.
SREENIVASAN: Because someone else is going to write it if you don't.
IDLE: That's the other thing, yes. I mean that was what Winston Churchill said, "History will be kind to me because I intend to write it."
SREENIVASAN: Why do you think Monty Python has lasted 50 years or at least that it's still funny?
IDLE: That is, to me, a kind of a wonderful mystery. And I think partly - - so there was the fact that it's not rooted in time but the comedy is generic, their characters but they're not like this particular president or
like "Saturday Night Live". When you look at old ones, you think, "Oh, your Gerald Ford fell over a lot." So you have to remember all that to
begin to love, whereas Python's after satire and the characters are just so silly or generic people.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAN: Your wife interested in photographs?
MAN: Snap, snap, grin, grin, wink, wink, say no more?
SQUIRE: Holiday snaps?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SREENIVASAN: You know you're known for being a funny man but when you -- as you start out in the book, you talk about kind of difficult childhood,
at least the boarding school phase and even before that losing your father at an early age but all of that helped you become the funny man that you
are now. How was that?
IDLE: Well, I think that people who are comedians are very weird people. They have been damaged early because they have things to do, to stand on
stage and ask people to laugh at you, you know. And then they become sort of addicted to that bark that humans make, the laugh.
And that becomes a kind of thing you seek out as you pursue it professionally. I remember going to my daughter's school and going into
pre-K and knowing exactly who were the funny kids. They're right there. They're funny right from that time.
SREENIVASAN: Well, how do you tell? How can you tell?
IDLE: There's just an attitude. And a lot of it is attitude because comedy is a sort of, I think, it's a way of thinking. So when you look at
a news event, you immediately interpret it as funny and looking for what is interesting or wrong about it. And I think that's a way of thinking that
[13:40:00] makes comedy or comedy writers -- that's how they do it.
SREENIVASAN: Did this early boarding school period kind of teach you a healthy disrespect for authority?
IDLE: Very much so. Yes, because you could only have fun by disobeying the school rules. So on -- it's like being in the military or in a prison.
You're on the surface, you're behaving properly like this but really are going over the wall to meet goals or get there or, you know, get cigarettes
and things like that. So I think that that was one of those things.
And the other thing is you're seriously mocking some of the things they say to you. Although you don't ever tell them that, you know because we were
beaten with canes. And then they would say, "Oh, it's for your own good." You know, well, if it's for my own good, why don't I beat you and it will
be nice for you too, you know.
So yes, there's an underlying text, subtext which is the truth. And I think that was through, say in communist societies, where people want to
like to say anything but underneath, there was this underground humor going all the time.
SREENIVASAN: But one of your first visit you talk about that actually got the attention of -- it was actually written by John Cleese but you were in
college at the time. This is a biblical weather forecast.
IDLE: Yes, it was started as a biblical newscast which is called BBC B.C. Good evening. It's the first chapter of the news, you know. And they were
kind of very college kind of jokes but then the weather forecast, it came on and he's talking about the place, you know, locusts followed by life,
some flies and on Tuesday, frogs.
And so I did that in my college view and it was written by John Cleese. So this is my second term and after the show, he came up and I met him. So
this is like February 1963.
SREENIVASAN: And you guys decided to be friends ever since?
IDLE: Well, no. He said -- he asked me to join the Footlights which is a club in Cambridge just for comedy and I hadn't heard of it. And he said,
"Well, come along anyway. You have to audition to get in." And I got in and then my life changed because that sort of became my college.
You know, they gave lunches. We had a bar that would open at 10:30 at night. It's fantastic. The pubs closed in England at 10:00 so it was
really nice. And then I met all these really funny people and learned about comedy, which is the only way you can by actually getting up on stage
and doing it.
SREENIVASAN: You had an amazing opportunity at the BBC to run with this group of friends and write this material. Did they understand what they
IDLE: No, because we didn't know what we were doing. We didn't know what we were going to do.
SREENIVASAN: Well, you're in this meeting and you don't know what's going on?
IDLE: We had no idea and we just said we don't know. We don't know where -- we have band. No, we don't have band. Film? Yes, we'll have film.
And the point was they should all just go away on May 13 which is extraordinary. And they knew us. We'd written for Frost. We were all
professionals. We'd done children shows. John Cleese was already a star because he'd been on the Frost Report so they trusted him and they really
didn't want to know because it was a new slot.
They were opening up after 10:30 at night on a Sunday when the queen came on on the horse and then television close down. So they didn't really
mind. They were just exploring that.
Well, what happens if we put on a show on a Sunday night after the pubs have closed? And they have no idea who would be watching and they have a
lot of complaints but they were very good. They just ignored them and they let us do what we wanted. And they never even read the scripts. They
just, "Oh, it's that thing. Yes, let's do that thing."
SREENIVASAN: But when you guys were in the room writing Monty Python sketches, you are not necessarily looking at this as actors?
IDLE: No, we're not actors. We're writers. So that was one of the original things about it. The whole show was written by the six of us and
we acted everything.
And so, you know, even the women's roles, we would do them because we wanted more parts. You know, six rows, six people to go around. You know
what I mean? And so we played everything and that was a kind of also gave it a sort of madness quality to it but the writers were in charge always.
SREENIVASAN: The name of the book Always Look on the Bright Side of Life is named after the song that you wrote. And it is one of the most iconic
scenes in the history of Monty Python. There you are on crucifixes. Always look on the bright side of life. [13:45:00] And apparently, it is
now still the number one song being played at funerals in the U.K.
IDLE: Well, that's pretty heavily ironic when you're being crucified to say, "Look on the bright side," you know. Not a lot of songs to go. But
what happens when it started to be sung by -- in the Falklands War? The ex-Mashafia was hit by an Exocet and the sailors sat on the deck for three
hours singing that song whilst they're waiting to be rescued.
And then when they were doing the -- well, was it the Gulf War, the RAF bombers who did those super low-level things, when they were shooting up to
go, they would sing Always Look on the Bright Side of Life. So it became a song of -- when things are really bad and bleak, it became a way to sing
and to cheer up.
SREENIVASAN: Yes. Do you want this at your funeral?
IDLE: I don't know. I told my wife I want to sit on my face and tell me that you love me but I've left a bribe for her to say something really
awful. Get extra money -- not that, something else. If you'll say that, I've left a little extra bonus money. If she comes up with a memorial.
SREENIVASAN: When that movie came out, A Life of Brian, there were protests in the United States or protests in the U.K., there are protests
all over. You had rabbis, you had Christian, all kinds of people could not deal with what you were trying to do at the time.
IDLE: No, no. We were supposed to come here and do promotion. And they said, "Forget it. It's on the news". You know, people are protesting.
They were picketing Warner Brothers in L.A. and said Warner Brothers are the agents of the devil. So they were -- you know, they didn't need us
because at all -- once you're on the news --
SREENIVASAN: You've got people listening.
IDLE: Yes, every night. You couldn't possibly beat that.
SREENIVASAN: Yes. And so it was a blockbuster success.
IDLE: For an usher.
SREENIVASAN: Yes. And then you also have other major films that every 12- year-old boy remembers, Holy Grail. I also wonder what is it about these
movies that goes beyond the 12-year-old boy?
IDLE: Well, I think it's very funny. I think grails got a lot of action, you know. He's not taking so seriously in filmmaking terms, although it
does look like a real film and they're behaving in childish ways, you know. And they're having some cows thrown at them.
SREENIVASAN: What's not to like about that?
IDLE: You know, we were actually filming it in nasty muds and horrible situation. So it didn't, you know --
SREENIVASAN: But you were miserable when you were there. The misery was real.
IDLE: And that's always funny. It's really unpleasant. You can be fairly sure it's funny.
SREENIVASAN: This is one function of your life being part of Monty Python. Since then, you've gone on to write music, write plays. A play that is
familiar to a lot of people in the United States is Spamalot. It did critically end at the box office quite well.
IDLE: Well, I was trying to write a musical. We've written one about cricket. She's clearly not going to work in America, OK. And then I
suddenly thought, actually the Grail is perfect because it's a bit like a parody of Arthur.
And also you could do it on stage. She didn't need horses and it's really funny. And it seems to be always about to be a song. I mean surely I'm not
dead yet was always in the Holy Grail but it wasn't.
So we got to adapt it for the stage and we had to change it a lot because there's 98 characters in the film. It has no shape, whatsoever and is
stopped by the police just stopping it, you know. So -- but I had Mike Nichols to work with. Although I think I don't buy them.
So that was great fun adapting it for the theater. It was just really great fun. And there are 25 million people who watched that play and were
about to do it as a movie.
SREENIVASAN: This has also afforded you a fairly fantastic life as you write in the book. You have gone to sort of hobnob with royalty, whether
it's rock & roll or the actual Prince or some amazing people that you talk about in the book. But that's not what the kid that was growing up in that
town was destined to do or be.
IDLE: Right. Well, that's sort of in a way because we were part of this generation who were all the 60s who invented everything because there was
nothing there. There were bomb sites and rationing and it was really awful. There wasn't a comedy show there three years before that we are now
And that -- what happened was that all the rock and rollers loved what we were doing because they love comedy and so they sort us out. We didn't go
looking after -- looking for them.
SREENIVASAN: You became really good friends with George Harrison. What did he teach you over time?
IDLE: He was amazing. I mean he -- I always think of him now as my closest I ever had to a guru because he was very good. I was very
depressed at the time, my marriage was breaking up, and he was just always so positive and always so generous to everybody.
SREENIVASAN: And it didn't have to do with the fact that he was so successful or rich.
IDLE: No, because being the most successful things in the world and he realized they were going to die. And very early on, you can't take it with
you. I mean it's one of the best examples.
You know, so what? You were there but you're still going to die so he began preparing himself for his own death which I wasn't around for and he
really have no -- he really had no regrets or fear.
IDLE: And that was great.
SREENIVASAN: You also write a lot about Robin Williams.
SREENIVASAN: You shared a long friendship. I mean you guys at vacation with your families.
IDLE: Yes. Robin was a very good friend and just a wonderful man, a really really generous, lovely genius and that was just so heart-rending.
It was the last thing I wrote for the book. I finished the book. You've avoided Robin and I thought, well, I've got to write about him. And
because people like to know what he was like. They obviously know he's comedy but what was he really like?
And so I thought I had to write a chapter about him. And that was hard because I think I've been pretending he actually wasn't really gone.
SREENIVASAN: There's a streak of kind of tragedies of some of your friends and colleagues as you go by, some to alcoholism or take their own lives.
Do you feel, I don't know if it's survivor's guilt or what could I have done, how is it possible that these people made these choices?
IDLE: I think you know, spoiler alert, we all die. And when you get to my age, a lot of people -- I probably know more people who are dead than
they're alive. And some just -- I mean in the last few years, I mean, you know, Mike Nichols and Carrie Fisher and, you know, a lot of really funny
people who I relied on in my life just suddenly went and left.
SREENIVASAN: Has your relationship with the Monty Python gang changed over time?
SREENIVASAN: Now that you see them with the benefit of hindsight and age and what's worked and what hasn't and how their lives are changed.
IDLE: Sure because you're all going -- you know, you're all going through the same process. And it's a raft of the Medusa. We're all sliding off
the life raft and the sharks are waiting. So Python is really good fun to be with. They're all really great fun.
And when we're together, it's still just as funny. I mean it's really funny and I like that. So we do get together now and again. But now we
have much more time for each other.
IDLE: Yes, much more because we don't have to do anything together. I mean we did ought to say goodbye and that was 2014. And now, you know,
it's beyond the possibility of doing anything.
SREENIVASAN: Have you all gotten funnier?
IDLE: I think a little bit, yes. I think we're still very funny, certainly with each other. I think so, yes, but I think we always were.
It was a very strange group. It was self-selected and it was all and it worked so we just kept it going.
SREENIVASAN: You know, there's a section at the end of the book. I'm just going to quote it. It says, "Laughter is still the best revenge. One day,
the sun will die. One day, the galaxy will die. One day, the entire universe will die. I'm not feeling too good myself.
So what have I learned over my long and weird life? Well, firstly that there are two kinds of people and I don't much care for either of them.
Secondly, when faced with a difficult choice, either way, it's often best. Thirdly, always leave a party when people begin to play the bongos."
Any other advice that you like to leave out?
IDLE: No, I think that pretty much covers a lot of time and advice.
SREENIVASAN: Eric Idle, thanks so much.
IDLE: My pleasure.
AMANPOUR: Eric Idle, a wonderful life indeed.
And tune in to tomorrow's show where we'll be looking back at my interviews with one of America's most powerful Catholic leaders Cardinal Timothy Dolan
of New York and with the super chef Jose Andres who made it his mission to save lives in Puerto Rico following last year's devastating storms, serving
an astonishing 3 million meals in two months.
But that is it for now. Remember, you can always listen to our podcast. See us online at amanpour.com and follow me on Facebook and Twitter.