Jon Stewart considered hosting his own late-night
talk show "the ultimate gig." But even the ultimate never offered
anything like the guest list facing Stewart today as HBO's pre-show
and backstage host on its telecast of The Concert for the Hall
"The list is a little insane," he said in an interview
this week. "I can't even imagine all these people in one room. Aretha
Franklin walking by, Johnny Cash, Chuck Berry. ... I'm looking forward
to it. Hey, I've ushered crappier shows than this. It's got to be
Stewart's job will be to make HBO viewers part
of the excitement all day and through the evening. He will host
four live cut-ins during the day (after Silverado, The
Making of `Last Action Hero,' Chasers and Lassie),
a concert "pre-show" at 7:15 p.m. and exclusive backstage segments
during lulls in the six-hour concert starting at 7:30 p.m.
"I'll be sneaking stuff off the buffet table,"
he joked. "At a show like this, I figure they've got to go all out
- I'm thinking red snapper." Stewart flew into Cleveland from Los
Angeles for a day earlier in the week to prepare. Currently shooting
the movie Wishful Thinking, a Miramax release with Drew Barrymore,
he planned to return this morning for the show.
"It should be pretty spontaneous," he said. "On
a live shoot, it's difficult to do anything too scripted. We'll
have pre-produced roll-ins that bolster it, but I have a feeling
if something cool happens, we'll deal with it, and I'm sure all
the musicians will be up for it." They'll discuss the show, the
hall and whatever else the quick-witted Stewart can pull from them.
"If it lags, I've got a fact sheet about Cleveland
and can jump in with the chief exports," he said. "Actually, who
would have thought? Here's this incredible concert, with all the
world's eyes on it, and by the way, the Indians are way in first
place. What is this, Major League III? It's some sort of
Age of Aquarius thing."
Stewart rapped skillfully with musicians on his
talk show, first on MTV and then in national syndication. Its cancellation
last spring reflected the brutally fragile economics of syndication
more than artistic failure, as HBO's selection of Stewart for the
Hall of Fame show testifies.
"Trying to make a talk show compelling is the
most difficult thing in the world," he said, though he's glad he
did it and "wouldn't mind" trying another. He admitted to one personal
goal for the concert show. "It's a Jersey Boy thing," he said. "Obviously
I want to grab Bruce Springsteen - just because growing up in his
shadow in New Jersey, there are some things I want to get off my
chest. Like, 'I went to the Stone Pony a lot and you were never
there, man. I wasted a lot of gas money on you.' And, of course,
he's like the idol of the age."
As for the long day's night ahead of him, Stewart
is unconcerned. "I think if I'm not out at the hotel pool with Jerry
Lee Lewis at 5 a.m., I'm not worth my salt," he said.
Copyright © 1995 The (Cleveland)
Plain Dealer. All rights reserved.
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