another reason to love jon stewart

I’m adding my voice the chorus of people mourning Jon Stewart’s last day as host of The Daily Show.

photo copyright comedy centralI know I am not alone in my love of Jon Stewart. I love his incisive, biting comedy/insight/brilliance; I love his ability to cut through the political bullshit to say the things that need to be said in US politics. And I love the kindness and compassion that is woven into so much of what he does.

Of that last bit, I have first-hand experience…

…so I’m going to share a (slighted edited) story that started as a number of posts on my old blog: the story of a conversation I had with him back in 2006; a conversation that cemented my feelings, and the reason I double-adore him.

~     ~     ~     ~     ~

Back in the mid-2000’s, I was doing a lot of freelance writing; one of my clients was a business and entertainment weekly that was published in Princeton, New Jersey. I wasn’t paid a lot, but I was adding to my portfolio while talking to and writing about some amazing people including Dr. Ruth (note to self: tell that story sometime), Tom and Jen Chapin, “plus size supermodel” Emme (size 14, really? plus-sized?) (but i digress). I also came this-close to interviewing Steve Martin, but had to settle for the chance to sit behind him at a talk he gave at Princeton University for their creative writing program.

All those were wonderful experiences,
but the time I talked to Jon Stewart
— for a story that never got published — tops ’em all. 

~     ~     ~     ~     ~

In January of 2006, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences announced that Jon Stewart was going to host the next Academy Awards. Though I enjoy watching the Oscars, I’m never really sure why. I’ve seen too many great movies get passed over for forgettable ones (hello? crash instead of brokeback mountain?), and the shows can be so boring — with long winded expositions (cinematography; what would a film be without the gifts of light and shadow that a cinematographer creates? blah, blah, blah…yes, yes, we appreciate it already…now give the bloody award!). But putting Stewart out front? I was already a huge fan of The Daily Show, and I figured he would make the pomp and circumstance that is the Academy Awards way more enjoyable.

A day or so after the news came out, I got a call from my editor/friend Jamie: “Did you hear that Jon Stewart was going to be hosting the Oscars?” she asked. (yes, i told her, i had …) “Did you know that he grew up in the Princeton area?” (no…) “Wouldn’t that be a cool local-angle story?” (well, yeah…) “…and would you want to do it?”

Ohmygodohmygodohmygod! Would I want to interview Jon Stewart?
Hell, yeah! I was so excited I was vibrating. How cool would that be?
(the only question was: could i interview him and not make a complete idiot of myself?)

Before I went batty with future-tripping, I remembered we had to snag the interview. (cause i had experience in this before: see the above re: losing out on an opportunity to interview steve martin.) Y’see, when dealing with celebrities of that stature, it wasn’t easy for our little weekly journal to push to the front of the line.

After a week of trying, we couldn’t even get in the door for the ask. We worked every contact we could think of. We tried the logical Comedy Central route; no go. I reached out to all my blog-buddies (this was back in the days of the dinosaurs: i.e.: pre-social media) to see if there were Six Degrees of Jon Stewart in my world. While I got a lot of support and good vibes, there were no connections. We tried knocking on every door we could think of in Lawrenceville; no luck. We thought if he just knew that a hometown publication wanted to interview him, the odds were pretty good that he’d be willing to give us a few minutes. Still, we were nowhere.

We were almost ready to give up.

Then, after weeks of behind-the-scene’s wrangling, my editor/friend got an email from Jon Stewart’s publicist at the almost-last-possible-minute before our deadline saying: “Do you still want to interview Jon? Is there still time?”

Editor/friend was on the phone with me in seconds. Still time? I thought. Honey, even if I have to pull an all-nighter to make deadline! Hell yes, there’s still time.

I got off the call with editor/friend with a phone number and a time to call that same day…
(ohmygod, i’m thinking: i’m going to call jon stewart!).

My hands were shaking as I started jotting down some notes for the call, terrified that I would break into a thousand pieces of excitement.

At the appointed hour, I called the number Mr. Publicist had given us…

“Comedy Central; this is Beth.”

“Hi Beth; this is Deb Cooperman…I have an appointment to speak with Jon Stewart …” (ohmygod i have an appointment to speak with jon stewart!)

“Just a second Deb, I’ll put you through.”

So there I am, on hold with my heart beating in triple-time in my ears. (don’t be a stupid fangirl cooperman, you’re a professional; you have a story to write. breathe! you’ve worked with celebrities before; no big whoop. they’re just people. famous, talented people, sure, but people: chill-the-fuck-out.)

“Hello?” the voice says.  (ohmygod, it’s jon stewart!)

“Hi Jon, this is Deb Cooperman…”

“Hi Deb; how’re you doing?” (he called me deb…ohmygod; jon stewart said my name…) (chill-the-fuck-out cooperman!)

“I’m fine, thanks,” I say. I congratulate him on his new baby — a daughter who’d been born just days before — he says he’s getting little sleep, but she’s amazing. I tell him I know he’s really busy, and I appreciate him taking the time to talk to me for this article.

“Glad to,” he says, actually sounding glad to.

A minute or two goes by, and it’s going well, I think. My professionalism kicks in (read: i’m not acting like a butthead); I’m asking the questions, taking notes, breathing, and the butterflies are calming down (wheew). I’ve asked a few questions, and he’s responded: gracious and funny, and it’s flowing nicely.

Then, about 5 minutes into the conversation he asks what the thrust of our story is. “Hometown boy makes fabulous,” I say (having relaxed by then, obviously), and he’s quiet: “Hm. That’s not what my publicist told me …”

Huh?

As I was soon able to piece together (dancing as fast as i could): in pitching this story my editor/friend did an amazing job of researching and selling the hometown angle. She’d discovered that a teacher who Stewart loved had recently died of Parkinson’s, and he’d worked on a local benefit to raise money for research, so in one of her pitch letters, she mentioned that perhaps Mr. Stewart would like to talk a bit about her influence. Unfortunately, it seemed that Mr. Publicist told Stewart that we would be focusing the entire story on the teacher rather than having her be a possible element in it.

After this came to light, Jon very pleasantly, but also very definitively, put the kabosh on “yet another article about me right now.”

I told him we would be happy to shift the focus of the piece; that it would be no problem (i was tap dancing then, big-time). It seemed that he was used to big publications where you actually have to get editorial OK for somthing like that (not so in our little weekly). Still, he, very politely said: “Why don’t you just confirm that with your editor and then reschedule another call through Matt?” (aka: mr. publicist.)

Within seconds after hanging up I was on the phone with my editor/friend and she was, as I suspected, totally cool about changing the angle of the story. Easy enough, we thought, to do something like: “Hometown boy Jon Stewart is on a roll…he just had a new baby, is on the top rated Daily Show, and is about to host the Oscars. But when I talked to him, he didn’t want to talk Oscars or politics or comedy: he wanted to talk about Selma Litowitz, his beloved English teacher from his days at Lawrence High School.” Easy. No problema.

But nope. Not so easy.

Editor/friend emailed Mr. Publicist, and said there had been a misunderstanding, but we loved this even-more personal angle. She closed with a request to reschedule. Mr. Publicist quickly shot back a note where he wouldn’t cop to not giving his client the full story in the first place (it may well have been an innocent mistake on his part originally, but her request was in the frikkin emails; how could he miss that? why would he try to pass it off as if it were her mistake?).

In the end, the bottom line was this: Mr. Publicist refused to bring the request back to his client’s attention. He refused to reschedule. There would be no follow up call with Jon. End of the road; buh bye and sayonara. (grrr)

I was so bummed I began sending negative vibes hoping that Mr. Publicist Man would get a really bad hangnail that throbbed like crazy, hurt like hell and took over a week to heal. Maybe it would even get infected. (if i had been less evolved, i might’ve wished him worse, but clearly, i am WAY spiritual.)

After getting over the frustration and disappointment of not being able to talk to Stewart again, (getting over the anger of stubborn-dickhead publicist man), and not having enough interview juice to write the story for the paper — I came to admire Stewart even more.

Because he was busy…and his life was crazed, but he took time out of all of that to talk to a Princeton, NJ based business and entertainment weekly because he thought the story was going to focus on a teacher who’d meant so much to him.

He was right. Although he’s an intelligent, funny interesting local boy who made fabulous, we didn’t need yet another story about him. There were plenty of stories about the great work he was doing on The Daily Show, his New Jersey roots, his new daughter, and his upcoming hosting gig on the Oscars, among others. But he didn’t want that.

He wanted to talk about a teacher who made a huge difference in his life. And even though the fundraiser he’d hosted on behalf of her charity had been a year and a half before, he was still willing to take the time to talk about her and the cause to this relatively small business and entertainment weekly .

I was sorry I didn’t get to talk to him again so I could publish the story the way he wanted to tell in the weekly, but I will never tire of telling it in blog-land…telling people why I loved him even more after he cut short our interview.

I am definitely going to miss his awesomeness on The Daily Show. So much.

But with the humor, smarts and heart that he has, I can’t wait to see what he’s going to do next.

Screen Shot 2015-08-06 at 3.13.56 PM

 

Addendum: When I decided to re-visit this story in honor of Stewart’s Daily Show sign off, I did a Google search to make sure I’d spelled Selma Litowitz’s name correctly, and I discovered this: a Stewart “super-fan” has spearheaded an online fundraiser for the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation as a thank-you and tribute to Stewart, in honor of Litowitz. I have a feeling he’d like that.

yay scotus (now let’s get someone hitched!)

copyright casey elizabeth gillMy newsfeed is LOADED with rainbows and sparklies and celebrations today.

Finally (FINALLY), marriage is available to all. 

(yay scotus!)

According to the Supreme Court: No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.

To celebrate this wonderful news,
I’m going to give away a free wedding facilitation to a gay/lesbian couple.

If you didn’t already know this, I’m ordained to perform marriages. By the power vested in me, I can help everyone (finally, everyone) make it official. My rev-ving started as a whim in 2007 (backstory’s here), but helping couples craft ceremonies that reflect who they are wound up becoming one of my favorite things to do. (learn more about how i work here.)

So…d’ya want a fabulous, free ceremony?
Just click here to fill out an application.
One couple will win a free ceremony facilitation and planning package, worth $350.

Rules of the game
Note (7/1) — some rules have changed, and the submission date has been extended!

  • You’re gay/lesbian
  • You want to get hitched  before 2016*

The winning couple will receive free ceremony facilitation and ceremony planning — worth $350.*
(that includes two skype or in-person meetings with the couple, and two rounds of ceremony writing/development. some restrictions apply.)

Click here to fill out the application (it’s short/sweet) by midnight, July 9th (just a few days after the 4th. whoo hoo; freedom and justice for ALL!)…and I’ll announce the winner on Friday, July 10th.
(bonus: all couples who enter the contest will also be included in a drawing for a free wedding planning/coaching session worth $150.)

*

  • Travel, accommodation and a per-diem may apply to couples outside a 50 mile radius of central NJ (this includes NYC and the outer boroughs; southern connecticut; bucks and northampton counties in PA; mercer, monmouth, middlesex, somerset, hunterdon, union, essex and morris counties).
  • Ceremonies that take place through July 2016 may also be considered, but will incur a travel fee and per-diem, no matter where the ceremony is located.
  • Additional meetings and ceremony revisions, or coaching or writing may incur additional fees. Standard fees for these services range from $150 – 250.

Let’s get you married!
(fill out your application here.)

checking in from a slow burn

mosey wood pond copyright debcoopermanHello friends.

I’m writing this post to all of you, but mostly to those who check in from time to time and have sent some notes wondering where I’ve been.

I’m still here.

And there has been a pull to something else in my life that has been taking a good chunk of time and energy, so I’ve been on a bit of a slow burn with my work.

Just for a while.

I’m using this slower time to simmer and plan some new things. Virtual sessions; some more in-person workshops; a video series. I might even jump on the podcast train.

But for now, I just wanted to say hi. Tell you I’m here, and here, sometimes here, and in the free Write Yourself Awesome community. I’m still working with one-on-one clients, but yes, the virtual stuff is on the back-burner for a while.

I’ll keep checking in; please do the same.

More blogging and schtuff for you soon.

Until then: I hope you’ll keep write freely and living fully.

ready poem (#npm15)

You may have notice that I seem to gravitate toward poems with themes about embracing now, and celebrating little moments. Like this moment.

And then this one.

And the next.

And the one after that.

Yeah, you got me. That’s the kind of poem I love.

Now here’s another one.

You Reading This, Be Ready

William Stafford

Starting here, what do you want to remember? copyright deb cooperman debcooperman.com
How sunlight creeps along a shining floor?
What scent of old wood hovers, what softened
sound from outside fills the air?

Will you ever bring a better gift for the world
than the breathing respect that  you carry
wherever you go right now? Are you waiting
for time to show you some better thoughts?

When you turn around, starting here, lift this
new glimpse that you found; carry into evening
all that you want from this day. The interval you spent
reading or hearing this, keep it for life —

What can anyone give you greater than now, 
starting here, right in this room, when you turn around? 

maya’s poem (#npm15)

Maya AngelouI’ve already told the story of when I met Maya Angelou, so if you want to the full scoops, you can read it here. Otherwise, just know that the day this graceful, tenacious, amazing giant of poetry recited the poem I’m sharing today at a small liberal arts college in Ohio, this (then) depressed, confused and nervous college student was graced with hope. And the most magical hug ever.

Always, always, always, thanks to my guardian angel/fairy godmother, Maya.

Phenomenal Woman

Maya Angelou

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size   
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,   
The stride of my step,   
The curl of my lips.   
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,   
That’s me.
I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,   
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.   
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.   
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,   
And the flash of my teeth,   
The swing in my waist,   
And the joy in my feet.   
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
Men themselves have wondered   
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them,   
They say they still can’t see.   
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,   
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.   
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.   
When you see me passing,
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,   
The bend of my hair,   
the palm of my hand,   
The need for my care.   
’Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

utterance poem (#npm15)

utterance poemI took this photo on the subway a skillion years ago…with an actual camera (so you can probably guess: it was over 8 years ago). If you’re not a regular NY subway rider, here’s a little crash-course: the subways provide a captive audience for all sorts of advertising; strung above the seats are placards, giving you something to look at (since your phone won’t work underground), and what if you don’t have the paper or a book, and you’re trying really hard to do that NY thing of paying attention to your surroundings but not looking directly at anyone.

The ads are often for different continuing education schools in the city, cell phone plans, or “Dr. Zizmor, dermatologist.” (i wonder who picks their dermatologist from seeing an ad on the subway…?) (but i digress.)

This was not one of those; this was from the MTA’s “Poetry In Motion” program (part of the MTA’s commitment to “create meaningful connections among sites, neighborhoods, and people.”). It slowed things down; made me feel more present right where I was…the way a good poem does, but I didn’t have time to write it down, so I took a photo.

I just love finding poems in unexpected places.

Utterance

W.S. Merwin

Sitting over words
very late I have heard a kind of whispered sighing
not far
like a night wind in pines or like the sea in the dark
the echo of everything that has ever
been spoken
still spinning its one syllable
between the earth and silence

 

rumi poem 2 – #npm15

My favorite Rumi poem. My wish and prayer for the world.Photo by Benjamin Miller FreeStockPhotos.biz

Out Beyond Ideas

Jelaluddin Rumi

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field.  I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase ‘each other’
doesn’t make any sense

mary oliver’s wild geese (#npm15)

If you don’t already know this one…oh, I am SO excited that you’re going to get to read this. I know I say it about a lot of the poems I post, but I really do love this one.

Take a deep breath, sink in and enjoy, friends. (or, watch/listen to mary oliver read it here.)

Wild Geese Benjamin Miller from Freestockphotos.biz

Wild Geese

Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

 

david whyte poem – round 1 (#npm15)

courtesy: death to stock photoThe first time I heard of David Whyte, I was actually hearing him.

It was October of 2000, and I was working for The Coaches Training Institute (CTI) as their Promotions Director. We’d gone to Vancouver to exhibit/schmooze at the International Coach Federations annual conference — where Whyte was a keynote speaker. A couple of colleagues and I were on booth duty in the exhibition hall when most of the attendees went into the ballroom to hear Whyte speak. Luckily, the ballroom doors were left open, so we wound up hearing most of the talk.

I’d never heard of him before, but I became a fan that day. Part of it was what he talked about (how the poetic imagination can help people get in touch with their true purpose) (how would i not love that, right?)…and part of it was the passionate way he expressed it…cause, y’know, he’s a poet. (and bonus: he’s irish, so there’s that accent…)

It’s hard to pick a favorite poem of his, but I’ll start with this simple, powerful invitation. (if you want a real treat, check out a few of his videos to hear him read his and other’s poetry. melt-city.) (here’s a short video that includes a brief conversation/introduction before he reads this poem below.)

Everything is Waiting for You

David Whyte

Your great mistake is to act the drama
as if you were alone. As if life
were a progressive and cunning crime
with no witness to the tiny hidden
transgressions. To feel abandoned is to deny
the intimacy of your surroundings. Surely,
even you, at times, have felt the grand array;
the swelling presence, and the chorus, crowding
out your solo voice You must note
the way the soap dish enables you,
or the window latch grants you freedom.
Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity.
The stairs are your mentor of things
to come, the doors have always been there
to frighten you and invite you,
and the tiny speaker in the phone
is your dream-ladder to divinity.

Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into
the conversation. The kettle is singing
even as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots
have left their arrogant aloofness and
seen the good in you at last. All the birds
and creatures of the world are unutterably
themselves. Everything is waiting for you.

 

 

 

“so?” poem – (#npm15)

copyright deb cooperman debcooperman.comI adore Parker Palmer. His book Let Your Life Speak was a game-changer for me. (i recommend it to so many clients searching for meaning in their too-busy-to-breathe lives). If you don’t know who he is, you might want to find out more (well, after you read today’s offering of course…).

I follow him on social media; he’s a HUGE poetry fan, and I will probably share more than one poem that I discovered because of him.

Today’s poem by the late Leonard Nathan is one of those.

Nathan was a professor of rhetoric at the University of California-Berkeley. My old friend — the poet Ann Veronica Simon (i’ll be sharing one of her poems soon) — died in 2003; she was in the PhD program at Berkeley…in rhetoric. I like to imagine that Nathan may have been one of her professors.

This wonderful poem centers on a question so many of us wrestle with: what can I do? what should I do? if I’m not a big fish in a big pond, how can I make a difference? what will make this fleeting, fragile time on the planet meaningful? for me, and for others?

And so…So?

So?

Leonard Nathan

So you aren’t Tolstoy or St. Francis
or even a well-known singer
of popular songs and will never read Greek
or speak French fluently,
will never see something no one else
has seen before through a lens
or with the naked eye.

You’ve been given just the one life
in this world that matters
and upon which every other life
somehow depends as long as you live,
and also given the costly gifts of hunger,
choice, and pain with which to raise
a modest shrine to meaning.  

 

As Palmer added when he first “gifted” the poem to his social media followers: “I re-read this poem occasionally and ask myself, “Using everything I have—including my own ‘costly gifts of hunger, choice, and pain’—what can I do today to keep raising the ‘modest shrine to meaning’ I’d like to create with my life?” Maybe it’s planting a tree, maybe it’s a random act of kindness to a stranger, maybe it’s offering comfort to someone who’s hurting, maybe it’s writing a thank-you letter to a mentor who saw your potential and drew it out…There’s always something meaningful I can do to honor the gift of life in myself, others, and the world around us. Just do it!”

What he said. :)