In January, Jon Stewart's taking over hosting
duties on Comedy Central's The Daily Show, so during
a conference call a reporter makes him play "Five Questions",
the program's segment that submits celebrities to goofy queries.
A sample: "Who's the better late-night
host - Larry Sanders or David Letterman?" Stewart appeared
as himself on and wrote for Garry Shandling's late night Sanders
parody, and once had a development deal with Letterman for a
late-night talk show. He thinks carefully. "Sanders had
his day," he says, "but Letterman is forever."
Ironically, the one question Stewart can't
answer is how The Daily Show will change when he replaces smarmy
Craig Kilborn as host. Stewart reports to work Jan. 4; his first
show airs Jan. 11.
"What I learned from doing my late night
show is that you can't plan this kind of show in advance,"
says Stewart, 35, who'll appear as a guest on The Daily Show
at 11 p.m. today. "We spent four months designing that
show, and the first week we were on the air it was evident that
75 percent of the stuff we thought would work didn't. "The
news is the currency of The Daily Show. I can't write
a show on Jan. 4 and run it on Jan. 11. You've got to write
it on Jan. 11."
Kilborn, whose final Daily Show airs
Thursday, is headed to CBS to take over The Late Late Show
from Tom Snyder. Stewart, ever the bridesmaid, had also been
up for that job, just as he once lost the chance to host a post-Letterman
Late Night to Conan O'Brien. He says he doesn't agonize
over such missed opportunities: "As long as I don't end
up hosting a skin care commercial with Cher, I'm happy."