Jon Stewart is cooling until he takes over
as host of Comedy Central's The Daily Show next month
(current host Craig Kilborn signs off at 11 tonight, with guest
Richard Lewis). The Daily Show satirizes events of the
day, so jokes can't be written in advance. Stewart meets with
the staff on Jan. 4 and goes on-air on Jan. 11. "I'll have
five good days to put the thing together," he says from
New York. "It'll be five days of being like a biohazard
drill team: We'll just be working on logistics. In the
meantime, everybody gets a break to get straight and sober."
Stewart hosted an MTV talk show in 1994 and
1995, after which he became the most mentioned possible replacement
in the business. David Letterman's production company wanted
to create a show for Stewart to follow The Late, Late Show
With Tom Snyder. Then Stewart was supposed to replace Snyder,
for whom he often guest-hosted (Kilborn got the spot). He also
appeared on HBO's fictional talk show The Larry Sanders Show
as himself -- a comedian rumored to replace the host. The
role was so successful there was talk of the HBO show continuing
with Stewart replacing Garry Shandling as the show's fictional
host.Meantime, Stewart wrote a book of humor essays (Naked
Pictures of Famous People) and worked on two movies that
open within the month (Playing by Heart and The Faculty).
He took time Wednesday from doing not much of anything to talk
about The Daily Show.
Q: How will the show change?
A: At first the difference will be in whatever atmosphere
I bring into it. It's not going to be like, "I really want
to do The Daily Show and I'd love to turn it into an
abstract musical." I like the format and the chance to
satirize the news.
Q: We've had this parade of pretty
boys named Greg Kinnear and Craig Kilborn --- any plans to changeyour
name to a variation of Greg?
A: We're talking about that, but we may want to ease
people into it. I'm like Bobby on The Brady Bunch when
he hangs from the chin-up bar to make himself taller.
Q: Anxious to get started?
A: I've spent the last few years getting some things
out of my system [the movies and book]. Now I want to get into
the rhythm of being able to respond to things. The other night
I was in bed when Mary Bono was questioning the Democratic counsel,
asking should she tell her children about the president. I wanted
to run to the studio and say, "Tell them he was addicted
to pain killers and skied into an intern!"
Q: What happened to talk between you
and Letterman about doing a show after Tom Snyder, or replacing
A: It was like a shotgun marriage. I was on the show
one night and David called the next day about joining forces.
But the more we got into it, the more I realized there were
other things I still wanted to do. There was talk of a sitcom
around the same time The Daily Show came up, and I decided
this made more sense for me.
Q: Was talk of you hosting The Larry
Sanders Show ever serious?
A: Not really. It was something we'd talk about at 2
in the morning and giggle about it.
Q: Where do you see yourself on the
A: Same place I've always seen myself. OK, I may never
be Woody Allen, but at least I'm not that other [guy] I saw
the other night.
Q: Plans for more movies?
A: The focus right now is getting up to speed on the
show and taking two or three months to get my bearings. It's
going to be like The Jerk: [the staff] knows [its] rhythm
and I'm Steve Martin on the porch, trying to clap and keep up.