"Stewart will keep satiric edge razor sharp on The Daily Show"
The Commercial Appeal (Memphis)
January 9, 1999
by Tom Walter


The Daily Show will remain The Daily Show, with its satirical mix of news, trends, and pop culture observations, even as Jon Stewart takes over as host Monday night. Inevitably, Stewart will put his own stamp on the show, he just doesn't know how or when. "At first, we'll just try to get good at what they do. Hopefully, if that's accomplished, we can think about stretching it. They do a pretty tight show right now," he said in a recent telephone interview.

Stewart takes over the Comedy Channel show from Craig Kilborn, who has been host since the show began in July 1996. Kilborn has left to replace Tom Snyder as host of CBS's Late Late Show, beginning March 30. Kilborn is the smart aleck who always has a smirk on his face. You get the sense he looks down on all the little people. Stewart's appeal is less condescending. He's quick-witted and sharp, but you sense with him that he wants to let you in on the joke.

He had his own talk show on MTV, and then for one season in syndication in the mid-1990s, and has been up for any number of jobs: as a replacement for David Letterman on Late Night, as host of a show to follow Snyder's, and even as Snyder's replacement. He also had a recurring role in The Larry Sanders Show as a possible replacement for the ever-neurotic Sanders.

That one, at least, never was a serious offer. "Not really. There was a lot of 2-in-the-morning giggling, but nothing really serious. Nobody wanted to get caught in an After MASH situation," he said. "I'm sure at the time they thought, `But won't people still be interested in Radar and Klinger?' "

Stewart is a standup comedian and author of Naked Pictures of Famous People, an absurdist collection that includes such scenarios as Hitler on Larry King Live and a Lenny Bruce sitcom. Clearly, the man has an imagination. But he says it won't be too difficult to stick with what's in the news when looking for humor. "A lot of what I do normally is create things and fabricate things, but I'm always far more amazed at reality. Unfortunately now, reality has gotten to the point where it is almost so unbelievable that it appears as though you are making it up," he said.

The Daily Show has a definite edge that can appear cruel at times. Stewart says edginess is a tricky thing. "I don't think edge has as much to do with attitude as it does targets. Edge is not necessarily about irony or being above it all," he said. "It's finding the real joke in everything. The real joke is [Rep.] Mary Bono saying to Abbe Lowell [during the impeachment hearings], `What do I tell my children?' when the woman is only in Congress because Sonny skied into a tree and he was hooked on pain killers."

There's plenty of fodder out there. The Daily Show airs at 10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, and Stewart has this piece of advice for people who might feel the need to watch local news instead. "Don't worry about local news. If it's really bad, you'll hear the sirens. There will be time to get to the bunker."


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