After a curious delay, CBS officially announced
yesterday that young comedian Jon Stewart has been signed
by David Letterman's Worldwide Pants company to a deal that
promises him, among other possibilities, a chance to start
a new 1:35 a.m. talk show on CBS. "I am incredibly flattered
by the opportunity to work with Dave and Worldwide Pants,"
Stewart said. "I can't express how much I admire his
accomplishments. It happened so quickly I barely had time
to tell the manager at Houlihan's I was quitting." Stewart
previously was the host of talk shows on MTV and in syndication.
The delay was unusual because executives for
Worldwide Pants talked openly about having signed Stewart last
week. They were eager to spread the News because they had beat
out NBC, which had been close to signing Stewart for its own
1:35 show, now hosted by Greg Kinnear.
What neither CBS nor the Worldwide Pants executives
wanted was what they got: speculation that Stewart was really
in line to get CBS' 12:35 a.m. show, now being hosted by Tom
Snyder, and also owned by Worldwide Pants. The speculation was
inevitable because CBS currently does not have a 1:35 show and
starting one will involve the cooperation of the network's affiliates,
many of which still don't take Snyder's show. CBS quashed
the speculation yesterday, announcing that it has renewed Snyder's
show for the 1996-97 season.
Rob Burnett, executive producer of the Letterman
show, said Stewart's signing had nothing to do with Snyder.
"We're not signing Jon to get rid of Tom. That's just insane.
We're very happy with Tom." Snyder's performance has been
unspectacular but solid. He averages about 1.5 rating, behind
Conan O'Brien's 1.9. But Snyder still has a handicap because
he's seen in fewer cities at 12:35.
Stewart's show, if it comes to pass, would
not go on CBS until the fall of 1997 at the earliest. In the
meantime, Worldwide Pants and CBS plan to develop a variety
of projects for Stewart, including specials and prime-time shows.
"Jon deserves his own television show," Letterman
said of the late-night talk show. "He's smart, funny and,
yes girls, he's single!"