Hey, Jon Stewart!
As the new host of Comedy Central's TV news parody, The Daily
Show, your career gets a fresh start. So you get to choose
your own adjective in front of the "late-night funnyman"
tag. Already out there are acerbic, quirky, cranky, angry and
anvil-chinned. Pick a new one. "Oh. How about slanderous
late-night funnyman? Litigious? Pensive? The only one with an
active case of the mumps?" he says. "I'm just happy
to be included in the category of late-night funnyman. Now I can
go to their brunches."
36, replaces Craig Kilborn -- who's off to CBS to replace Tom
Snyder on The Late Late Show in March -- with a four-year
contract that pays him about $1.5 million a year. And befitting
his status as an established talent, he gets his name added to
the title of the show that defined Comedy Central before the South
The deal also
gives Stewart, who has a development deal at Miramax, time to
make movies. He's currently seen in The Faculty and has
roles in Playing by Heart (out Jan. 22) and Adam Sandler's
next picture, Big Daddy. Plus, he deadpans, "every
fifth show I get a free sundae. So there are perks."
But the self-deprecating
Stewart insists his main career goal remains the same: "Just
to get really good at stand-up. I try not to think too much about
it." The New Jersey native, a comic for 12 years, may be
the most famous floating guest host since Joey Bishop.
when Paramount canceled his 1-year-old syndicated talk show, an
offshoot of the one he started for MTV in 1993, Stewart has been
mentioned as a replacement for Conan O'Brien in the early years,
for Snyder (for whom he was a fill-in host), and most memorably,
for Garry Shandling's Larry Sanders on The Larry Sanders Show
Stewart went in yet another direction with the publication of
Naked Pictures of Famous People (Rob Weisbach Books). The
collection of comic essays touched on such "what if"
topics as Adolf Hitler interviewed by Larry King. That was a departure
from the route taken by comics such as Jerry Seinfeld and Tim
Allen, who both wrote best-selling books based on their stand-up
material. But don't start referring to him as a humorist, Stewart
insists. "It's still just jokes," he demurs. "I
don't consider myself [John] Updike now."
"Five Questions" and "Moment for Us" segments
are going with him. But Stewart and executive producer Madeleine
Smithberg both say The Daily Show's news spoof format,
originally built around Kilborn's hair-obsessed anchor and interviews
with eccentric real people and stars who take themselves too seriously,
will remain the same. "You're going to see us redevelop the
show on the air," Smithberg says.
A. Whitney Brown and Brian Unger also have left, but new talent
includes Vance DeGeneres (Ellen's brother) and comic Laura Kightlinger.
Smithberg still calls the show "a platform to serve up the
irony of our country."
another Kilborn signature, "I've been working on the smirk,"
Stewart says. "But it just keeps coming out so I look like
Emmett Kelly. Maybe I'll just end the show each night by sweeping
up the spotlight."