When Jon Stewart reflects on growing up in central New Jersey, three particularly poignant memories enter the townie-turned-television-titan's mind.
"Hoagie Haven, Genessee Cream Ale and whizzing on the Mercer Oak," he said.
Upon learning that the Mercer Oak is no longer standing, Stewart responded, "I blame Yale. No question that is subversion."
Stewart — host of the hit comedy series "The Daily Show" — took a moment for The Daily Princetonian yesterday, speaking of his youth, his plans for Saturday's performance in Dillon Gym and his proclivity for arson.
Of his upcoming show, Stewart said, "You can expect — and this may be a little surprising to people — to learn a little something about yourself, and maybe to cry. I think it is going to be informative. It deals mostly with String Theory, and it is going to be a nice night."
"Wait, no, that's not my performance, I'm going to tell jokes and use bad words and stuff, he continued. Then we're all going to head over to PJ's Pancake House and freak them out by ordering one gigantic chocolate chip pancake."
One of his favorite memories of growing up near Princeton is of mischievous events at the Santa Fe Cafe on Nassau Street. "We were the ones who kept burning down that restaurant," he said. "It used to be a bowling alley. Then someone got the bright idea to do something not flammable. It just burned down like every three years."
Stewart showed early signs of comedic brilliance when he destroyed $10,000 worth of tropical fish aquariums as a teenager in Lawrence Township. "It was a mistake I made working at a Woolworth's in the Quaker Bridge Mall in which I paid with my job and the humiliation of having my brother actually have to fire me," he recounted. "He was the head cheese there." Stewart went on to get fired from five other stores in the mall.
When not causing massive damage, Stewart was honing his soccer skills with his local team, the Hiberians. "Back when I still had wind and lungs and both my kidneys, we went out to Mercer County Community College," he said. "It would be 20 degrees out and the ground would be frozen solid, and we would be out there running around like idiots."
Stewart also recalled other embarrassing moments from his youth. "There was a place called Hulit's Shoes, which also burned down. Every year at back-to-school time we would all have to head off to Hulit's Shoes and go through the humiliation of being fitted for hush-puppies," he said.
Summing up his childhood in the Princeton area, Stewart said, "I wasn't a circus boy. As you know it is a pretty straightforward area."
Stewart did manage to make one or two trips to the eating clubs during his high school days.
"I actually spent one night in one of those drunk, playing pool," Stewart said, without revealing whether he is planning an encore appearance at Prospect Avenue any time in the future. For those eating clubs that might hope to entice him to stop by Saturday, Stewart shared his beverage preferences. "I think now it is more of a Budweiser situation," he said. "Now that I have gotten older, my tastes have changed somewhat."
"Plus, I'm just thrilled by the lizard commercial," he added. "How can you not drink their beer?"
Stewart said he harbors particularly intense feelings for Vanilla Ice, who will be performing Saturday night at Campus Club. "Get me a bat," he deadpanned.
"I'll just make sure I honestly don't give him anything large to swing," he said. "Anything you give him, make sure it is Nerf."
When asked about whether he will be performing new material at Saturday night's show, he replied, "A lot of it probably, some of it not, some of it more experimental. I'm trying to find my way again. So I'm experimenting on you guys." Stewart is performing at Carnegie Hall in June, so he is on the road preparing new material.
Though Stewart said he is excited about returning to Princeton, he does have one regret. "I'm just assuming Brooke Shields doesn't go there anymore," he lamented.