Rather than watch another homebred host use
the network as a stepping stone, Comedy Central has named established
talker Jon Stewart as new host of The Daily Show beginning
in January 1999.
Stewart replaces Craig Kilborn, whose role as
Daily's anchor landed him a contract with CBS-TV to replace
Tom Snyder on The Late, Late Show. Comedy's two-year contract
with Kilborn was set to expire in August 1999; the new contract
with Stewart is for four years. "I wanted to work out a four-year
deal to have longevity with a host," says Comedy Central
President Doug Herzog. Kilborn will be released from his contract
early, "with no bad feelings" from the network's side,
With Stewart, Herzog says, he'll consider expanding
the late-night social satire show from four to five nights a week
"at some point." Herzog also suggests that Comedy may
work toward developing an original talk show to follow Daily
at 11:30 p.m. ET.
Stewart, who most recently subbed as a fictitious
host on HBO's The Larry Sanders Show, will be reunited
with Eileen Katz, who produced The Jon Stewart Show for
two years at MTV. Katz is now senior vice president of programming
for Comedy Central. Madeleine Smithberg will continue as executive
producer of Daily.
Before Stewart accepted the Comedy Central slot,
cable onlookers speculated he might succeed Garry Shandling on
The Larry Sanders Show or be tapped by CBS for a late,
late-night show. Ultimately, Stewart says, CBS "wasn't ready
to do it, and neither was I. I always wanted to go to a show where
I'm not pushing the host out," Stewart says. "I like
going to a job that's available."
Stewart is poised to join Daily on a
ratings upswing. According to Comedy and the latest Nielsen data,
Daily averaged a .7 rating for the first two weeks of August,
1998, compared with an average .4 rating for the same period last
year. Stewart's previous commitments this fall -- he'll star in
two feature films to be released this December and will release
a book of short stories next month -- prevented him from joining
Comedy sooner, the network says.