The Daily Show

interview by Jon Stewart on June 3, 2002


Jon: My guest tonight, an actor whose films include Shakespeare in Love and Bridget Jones's Diary. His latest is The Importance of Being Earnest. [clip of Lady Bracknell's interview of Jack]  Please welcome Colin Firth. [to Colin] Welcome to the show.

Colin: Thank you.

Jon: I gotta tell ya, this film, The Importance of Being Earnest, is, I think, the finest in the Ernest series.

Colin: Oh really?

Jon: I think so, so much classier than the other, uh...

Colin: You missed the early ones, presumably.

Jon: The early ones, yeah. Did you ever see…uh, did they get those in England? Did they get Ernest goes to Jail, Ernest goes to, uh…do you know those films?

Colin: [nods] Mr. Ernest goes to Washington, and all that stuff, uh [chewing lip as he tries to figure out what conversation is about]

Jon: It was a guy, like a goofy Southern guy and then he’d, like, mess up Christmas and stuff.

Colin: That’s right. We used to do school productions of those.

Jon: Oh did you really? That’s exciting.

Colin: That’s right.

Jon: How are things going in England? You guys didn’t go along with the Euro, am I right? England did not convert to the Euro.

Colin: No we weren’t having any of that stuff.

Jon: Why was that, do you think? Not interested in currency exchange?

Colin: Well, it’s…first, you’ve got to explain to the people in England where Europe is, um, and what it is.

Jon: Now, I thought we were the only ones who had misunderstood that continent. But England as well?

Colin: I think that little channel of water might as well be the Atlantic Ocean for a lot of people in England.

Jon: Really?!

Colin: Truly, absolutely.

Jon: They consider, uh, because they used to own most of it.

Colin: Don’t, uh, don’t remind me. [dejectedly]

Jon: I’m sorry. [Jon puts hand on Colin’s shoulder]

Colin: We used to have all of it. It is not in our concept, really. People in England will talk about someone having a European accent, meaning some unspecified mid-European thing they don’t know.

Jon: But, see, I can go along with that, because America and England speak the same language, I think we have a similar mindset, of, like, uh, “Pardon my French, there, Frenchy.” [Colin nods] You know what I mean? But we consider England to be sort of us.

Colin: Yeah, I think that’s true. In fact, I think that the continental Europeans see England a bit like an extension of America.

Jon: I agree. And yet without us they’d all speaking [pause] German.

Colin: [laughing] Yes, oh, we’re going down that road!

Jon: No we’re not going down that road.

Colin: I tell you, if you look at the English press around the time that the Afghan war was beginning, it was all this stuff about Blair offers final ultimatum to the Taliban. We’re going in! And then there’d be little stuff about how the Americans were helping us out. [Jon laughs] We still think we’re the most powerful country on the planet.

Jon: It’s cute.

Colin: I know.

Jon: It’s very cute. [laughter and applause] I actually have a good time whenever I go over there. The interesting thing is that we both, I think…and this is something I think both America and England can agree on. We can both, I think, abuse Canada. And I think that in many ways is a saving grace.

Colin: Absolutely, the Australians, any other English-speaking country, I think is...

Jon: That’s what I’m saying.

Colin: Nobody, I think... we’re probably more perverted than any other, uh, race of English speaking…

Jon: England?

Colin: Uh, yeah, I would say so.

Jon: Now, that’s interesting because we’re somewhat perverse.

Colin: No, I know. I know. But you don’t have our school system.

Jon: We’d like it. You haven’t seen ours, buddy. [laughter] What is it about your school system that leads to this perversion?

Colin: Well there’s this, um, Englishmen of a certain class… English men of a certain class thrown together, you know, with nobody but matron to look after them. And as a result, we have a rather higher quota of conservative politicians found dead from acts of autoeroticism. [laughter, Jon resting forehead on hand, laughing; Colin kept straight face up to the end of this bit]

Jon: That’s true, I will grant this country one thing. Our, uh, our politicians are with good old-fashioned hookers. And I think that says a lot about…

Colin: You should be very proud.

Jon: None of that autoerotic stuff.

Colin: No, no, no.

Jon: There were, it’s such an interesting dichotomy, that…The surface of England is this very stodgy, superficial, or at least that’s kind of the stereotype we have, but underneath it’s a pretty perverse little place.

Colin: It’s pretty complicated.

Jon: Are the cities much different than in similar ways to American cities much different than the country? Is there a heartland in England and a cityscape? Or is class broken out in different ways?

Colin: I think it’s broken out in different ways. Urban England is very distinct from rural England. You know, there are 60 million people on that little island, so it’s a very overcrowded place. And London is a gigantic city. It’s bigger than this one. And I think it tends to surprise people. It’s a huge sprawl. It’s very international. It has a crime rate which is higher than anywhere in this country, you know, if you take handguns out of the equation. You’re far more likely to get attacked in most English cities than you are here.

Jon: Is that true?

Colin: Yeah, that is true.

Jon: By doughy Stilton cheese? What do they come at you with? Brass knuckes and such?

Colin: Yeah. No. There’s stuff other than handguns which they’re very fond of using.

Jon: [sounding like a car salesman] You know what we’re going to do for you? Here’s what we’re going to do for you. We’re going to send you some handguns. We’re gonna get this thing…

Colin: Get the whole thing sorted out. Because we’ve been struggling…

Jon: Well this film, The Importance of Being Earnest, a good film?

Colin: It’s an excellent film. You know, speaking impartially, yes.

Jon: And you enjoyed, it’s clearly some very talented people involved.

Colin: A lot of fun, a very talented cast, really, you couldn’t get better.

Jon: Uncomfortable to wear the period clothing, that sort of thing, or are you all right?

Colin: Well, because of my background at school I’m used to wearing all sorts of stuff…

Jon: I can just imagine now, um, the next Harry Potter movie. They’re gonna give each other reacharounds. It’s the craziest thing. [English accent] “Harry, that’s not your wand!” The Importance of Being Earnest in theaters now. Colin Firth everybody!

Many thanks to KateF for the transcription and annotation.

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