Along with watching the Knicks lose at basketball, riding the subway, getting yelled at in the street (or on the subway) and seeing a rat — usually on the subway — is there a more New York experience than eating pizza? This I ponder while I wait for Jon Stewart at John’s of Bleecker Street, a Greenwich Village institution that looks as old as its 93 years. A sign over the door says “No Slices”; inside, dark panelled walls are adorned with graffiti scratched by diners down the decades. There are also framed photographs of various celebrity guests, including Nicolas Cage, the formerly famous and not very good rapper Vanilla Ice and, by my table, a young Billy Crystal.
But more on the pictures later. Pizza is a fitting choice for a lunch with one of New York’s most beloved sons, a former stand-up comedian who became America’s pre-eminent satirist over 16 years as the host of The Daily Show, and who was this year awarded the Mark Twain Prize for comedy. He spoke for many in the city in an emotional on-air monologue shortly after 9/11, and in subsequent years his hometown’s affection for him grew because of his campaigning for the rights of emergency workers who survived the attack, culminating three years ago in a landmark law that permanently funds medical care for 9/11 first responders.