"'Show' time for Stewart"
The Dallas Morning News
January 10, 1999
by Ed Bark

 

Host gets a daily forum for his brand of quick wit

Last seen on a screen, Jon Stewart had a pen stuck in his eye and was oozing a white, frothy foreign substance.

That's what he gets for playing an evil alien schoolteacher in The Faculty, which opened Christmas Day and likely will close before the end of this month.

"Now you see why I'm coming back to TV, for God sakes," Mr. Stewart told host Craig Kilborn on his second-to-last edition of Comedy Central's The Daily Show.

Beginning Monday, call it The Daily Show With Jon Stewart. Otherwise it'll still be a weeknightly spoof of current events, with Mr. Stewart presiding and smirking from the show's anchor desk. Putting his name in the title ensures that viewers won't mistake the short, dark-haired new host for the tall, blond, self-admiring Mr. Kilborn. Or something like that.

"The structure of the show is very sound, so it's really a question of finding different flourishes," Mr. Stewart says in a recent telephone interview. "For the first few months, I'm sure I'll be stumbling around like when you first work in a restaurant. I'll be looking for where the ketchup is."

Mr. Stewart, 36, figuratively has been waiting tables for longer than he'd care to remember. Way back when - 1995 - he gabbed for a living on the syndicated Jon Stewart Show, which was canceled in June of that year after a nine-month run. No matter. Mr. Stewart already had flashed a quick, nimble tongue that made him a critical darling and a sure bet for another show. But when and where?

He first signed a deal with CBS, which pondered what to do with him before finally doing nothing. For a while it was thought he might replace Tom Snyder on CBS' The Late Late Show. Instead it'll be Mr. Kilborn stepping in when Mr. Snyder leaves the show in March.

Mr. Stewart then played a fictional would-be talk show host on HBO's The Larry Sanders Show, which ended last May. There was talk of him starring in a Sanders spinoff, but nothing came of that. And to hear him tell it now, Mr. Stewart was perfectly satisfied to go nowhere in particular.

"For me, a talk show was never really the goal," he says. "People that worry about where they're going next generally don't end up where they think they're going. I just worry about what I'm doing now and try to make it good. When you've got too much of a master plan, it' s going to fail."

He kept busy, though. His quickie bathroom book, Naked Pictures of Famous People, was published last fall. In the past year, he also "banged out three pictures for Miramax," he says. "That and my night job at Bennigan's."

Two of the pictures are the aforementioned The Faculty and Playing by Heart, due Jan. 22 and co-starring Sean Connery and The X-Files' Gillian Anderson. In early December, he finished work on Adam Sandler's Big Daddy.

"I play Adam's best friend," Mr. Stewart says. "A kid gets dropped off on Adam's doorstep and he has to try to keep it alive for six weeks. And the kid grows up to be one of the stars of Dawson's Creek."

His bio lists another picture in the works, Almost Romantic, with Janeane Garofalo. Mr. Stewart shrugs it off. "I don't think that's ever going to get done," he says. "It's kind of in limbo."

Mr. Stewart got the Daily Show job just before Comedy Central president Doug Herzog jumped over to Fox to become its new entertainment president. South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker subsequently said they were interested in running Comedy Central. No, they weren't kidding, even if the network has no intention of putting them in charge.

"I don't know how hot they'd be at the administrative level," Mr. Stewart deadpans. "But it'd be nice to have every meeting end with killing Kenny."

Mr. Stewart takes over The Daily Show with the wind at his back. President Clinton's impeachment, the looming presidential candidacies of Elizabeth Dole and Hulk Hogan. It's always something.

"Impeachment isn't nearly the comedy wonderland that Monica Lewinsky was," he says. "She was obviously a hot fudge sundae. The best thing in the world for me would be for Bill and Monica to get engaged and then for O.J. to go to the wedding and disrupt it. But I'm very confident the world will provide me with enough chaos. It never seems to let you down for long."

His deal with Comedy Central calls for him to host The Daily Show "until I die," he says. "It's like being a Supreme Court justice. Actually, I think the contract is for four years."

Even while his career taxied, Mr. Stewart was considered cool enough to make the People Weekly Almanac's annual list of the 400 "most compelling, fastest-rising and indisputably established stars and starmakers." Landing alphabetically between Howard Stern and Martha Stewart, he' s quoted as having once said, "As long as I can remember, I wanted to sleep late, stay up late, and do nothing in between."

No. 1, he didn't know the list even existed. No. 2, he's bemused. No. 3, he's aghast at learning that Troy Aikman was one of the celebrities bumped from this year's list. And No. 4, "I'm sure I did say something ridiculous like that.

"Oh well," he adds, "there's something for the kids of America to grab onto. What a role model I've become! Awesome!"

 

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