WAKE-UP CALL: Jon Stewart showed a breakfast crowd Thursday that he can be just as funny in the morning as he is late at night. “My only regret is we couldn’t have done this earlier,” the bleary-eyed “Daily Show” host told the gathering, which was part of a series sponsored by the Newhouse School of Communications at Syracuse University. “I really shine around 6 [a.m.].” Fielding questions from interviewer Ken Auletta, Stewart alternated between comic riffs, celebrity impressions and more serious musings. Some highlights:

This story first appeared in the October 15, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

  • On the third debate: “I think they should’ve stopped at two.”
  • On CNN’s Robert Novak: “I wouldn’t have him on my show. I have standards.”
  • On post-debate spin: “To have a Democratic strategist and a Republican strategist on is not a debate — it’s Coke and Pepsi discussing beverage supremacy.”
  • On Fox’s Bill O’Reilly: “If you actually listen to what he’s saying, he’s one of the more reasonable commentators on that network.”
  • On being short: “We’re Jews. It’s not a dunking people.”
  • On growing up: “As you get older, you learn to fine-tune the pathology that is your brain.”
  • On presidential candidates posing as regular guys: “Don’t be like me. I have an idea — be better than me. Be so much better than me that you keep us safe and get us health insurance. Don’t be like us, because we’re f—ing idiots.”
  • On why he’s voting for John Kerry: “If one guy drove me into a ditch and said, ‘Don’t worry, I know how to drive us out of this,’ I’ll give the keys to a seven-year-old at that point.”
  • On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: “What was God thinking putting all of his holy sites in one area, like two blocks from each other?”
  • On FCC fines: “NBC’s best show is girls in bikinis eating mealworms. As long as you’re topping that, you shouldn’t get fined.”

— Jeff Bercovici