Comedy Central won't come up
short with new host of Daily Show
It is still too early to determine what changes
will occur when Jon Stewart takes over as the new host of Comedy
Central's The Daily Show early next year. But a cosmetic
change could go at the top of the list: The set may need to be
Craig Kilborn, soon to be ex-host of the irreverent
nightly news magazine (10 p.m. Mondays through Thursday), stands
well over 6 feet tall. In fact, almost every late-night talk show
host is at least 6 feet or taller.
Stewart is 5 feet 7 inches tall.
"If you look at the landscape of late-night,
I'm not nearly tall enough a man to host a late-night talk show,"
Stewart said days after he was officially named Daily Show
Well, Bill Maher of ABC's Politically Incorrect
isn't that tall, either. His stature as a talent also is questionable,
but that's another story.
Stewart, a smart, deft standup comedian who
has some experience in the television talk show world, has filled
in for Tom Snyder on CBS' The Late, Late Show numerous
times (there was talk that he might succeed Snyder). Stewart's
height played a role in his sitting in for the venerable talk
"The cameras were so designed for his frame,
that when I got there I looked like (Lily Tomlin's) Edith Ann
(character) sitting in the chair," said Stewart, 35. "They
had to give me a booster cushion. So whenever I was working that
show, I was actually sitting on like a children's pillow."
Now that Stewart is the king of the two-year-old
Daily Show he can have the throne adjusted any way he wants.
Stewart, inspired by memories of a certain amusement park attraction,
may go one step further.
"It's like those worlds that you see at
the Coney Island freak show," the New York native said. "The
World's Smallest Man had an apartment, but all the furniture was
"So our studio -- you won't be able to
tell on TV -- will be that way. We're going to miniaturize everything
so that I look enormous."
Comedy Central should make the set as big or
as small as Stewart wants, because they've got a sure-handed host
in the comic, one that solves a big problem for a show the all-comedy
network has been trying to balance for several weeks. (In fact,
Stewart shouldn't worry about measuring up to Kilborn when it
comes to talent.)
Kilborn was named Snyder's replacement on The
Late, Late Show in May, even though Kilborn is still under
contract with Comedy Central until next summer. The cable network
cried foul, threatened to hold Kilborn to his contract, and sued
both the host and CBS for breach-of-contract.
Kilborn has been on bad paper since late last
year, when he made crude sexual comments about Daily Show
co-creator and head writer Lizz Winstead in Esquire magazine.
Kilborn was suspended for a week, and Winstead left the show shortly
Comedy Central is said to be working to let
Kilborn out of his contract early. Snyder, who has said he is
tired of the late-night grind, is under contract to CBS until
Meanwhile, the cable network searched for someone
to take over for Kilborn. WGN-Ch. 9's Bill Weir -- another tall
drink of water -- was one of those auditioning for the job.
But Comedy Central last Tuesday gave Stewart
a four-year contract said to be between $1.4 million and $2 million
a year; Stewart said the final numbers were being worked out.
Also to be worked out is whether The Daily
Show could keep its "5 Questions" feature, where
Kilborn, who initially came up with the idea, asks celebrity guests
odd-ball queries that wandered from fact to fiction.
(Among the questions asked of Stewart while
he was a guest on the show was "What is the capital of Kentucky?,"
to which he incorrectly answered Lexington instead of Frankfort.
He also had to finish the Barry White lyric, "Your sweetness
is my . . . ." Instead of "weakness," he said "feetness.")
Stewart, who had a successful MTV talk show
in 1993 -- which was turned into a not-so-successful syndicated
talker the following year -- and who played the successor to Larry
Sanders on HBO's fictional-talk-show comedy series, doesn't think
he would use the "5 Questions" segment, which Kilborn
may want to take with him. Comedy Central is using the old "intellectual
property" tag as a way to keep it.
"My feeling is, basically, the show's identity
is going to have to evolve once I get in there through what I
want to do. You wouldn't want to take over for (David) Letterman
and start doing `Top 10' lists either," says Stewart, whose
book Naked Pictures of Famous People comes out in September
and whose movies Dancing About Architecture and The
Faculty are scheduled for release before the end of the year.