After Jon Stewart revealed that he was leaving “The Daily Show” in February, speculation was rampant about his post-retirement plans, and the future of the show itself.
But the first time he spoke publicly about his decision afterward wasn’t on any of the high-profile TV talk shows.
Instead, it was at “Employee of the Month,” a cozy monthly show (and podcast) at Joe’s Pub hosted by Catie Lazarus, who had booked him before the news broke.
Her talk show takes a comedic but thoughtful look at the working lives of her guests, who have included Gloria Steinem, Martha Plimpton and a former pickpocket.
Once a doctoral student in clinical psychology, she dropped out to pursue a career in comedy, but was unsure of the right path to take.
“I started hosting this show because I couldn’t quite figure out how to break in,” she said.
In the process, she discovered a love of interviewing.
Lazarus, 38, who lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her dog, Lady, showed up at an interview toting along the fuzzy bear hat that she has treasured since the 1980s. She asks as many questions as she answers, and is prone to amusing tangents, which she punctuates with a conspiratorial laugh. These are excerpts from the conversation.
Q: How did you deal with all the attention that came with the Jon Stewart interview?
A: I wake up nervous about life, so walking down the street is terrifying. So it’s no different. I’ve been doing this awhile, so I’m able to throw up, clean myself up and then go out there and interview folks.
Q: What do you find interesting about talking to people about their jobs?
A: I wanted to hear from people who, for the most part, love what they do and have carved out a niche for themselves. It wasn’t just about how they broke in, but what they continue to find worth struggling for, worth the heartache and the rejection and the economic toil and other types of losses. ... I’m just obsessed with work and how we work and why we work, and so it seems like a never-ending subject to me.
Q: What’s something you found revealing?
A: I asked Kurt Andersen, who was the former editor of New York magazine, what he felt led to him being pushed out.
It was fascinating to hear about what a struggle it is as an editor in chief, where you have to be a businessperson in addition to a journalist.
His first calling is being a journalist, so he stuck to that. But it wasn’t without risk.
And ultimately, his career and his integrity were helped by that. So sometimes you can lose the job but not the career.
Q: Your family is full of people with interesting jobs. Your dad was an adviser to President Jimmy Carter. Did that spark your curiosity about careers?
A: I was keenly aware that people went on to achieve these great things. I just didn’t know the steps that were involved to get there. That is why I started my show, because there is somewhat of a science to success.
Q: What’s your own dream job?
A: What I do right now, hosting a talk show. I found mine, but it wasn’t intentional.