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"Irreverent Daily Show doesn't skip a beat with Stewart"
The Oregonian
January 13, 1999
by Pete Schulberg

 

Jon Stewart's refrain could well be, "I'm not a news anchorman, but I play one on TV."

Stewart made his debut Monday night as anchor host of Comedy Central's The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, which calls itself the "most important television program -- ever."

Actually, the nightly news parody is the funniest. Maybe not funniest "ever," but "currently" certainly works.

When I want consistent late-night laughs and figure I can miss the nightly diet of crime on the 11 p.m. news, "The Daily Show" has been my nonreality check for the past couple of years.

And Stewart should do just fine and dandy, taking over for the recently departed Craig Kilborn, who will step into Tom Snyder's chair on CBS' Late Late Show.

Monday night's cutting-edge humor (translation: jokes on a cable channel that would never be allowed to get by network censors or even make it into a family column such as this one) didn't miss a beat from the Kilborn era. There were massive doses of impeachment material and a guest appearance from Michael J. Fox ("I've been on the Daily Show more than you have," he told an understandably nervous Stewart).

"Craig Kilborn is on assignment in Kuala Lumpur," Stewart announced as he began his stewardship, sailing through the opening "Headlines" segment and questioning chief political correspondent Stephen Colbert about how the impeachment proceedings were attracting merchandising and sponsorship (impeachment T-shirts, snow globes and action figures. "The Jesse Helms action figure comes with a gay action figure for the Helms action figure to hate" and "El Diablo, the official fajita of the impeachment process").

"The Daily Show" will benefit from Stewart's writing talents, and in front of the camera, he's no slouch, either. His dry, irreverent and biting demeanor fits comfortably with the dry, irreverent, and biting Daily Show style.

Stewart, a 36-year-old New Jersey native, hosted his own late-night syndicated show for a season (before it was canceled) and was a recurring guest on The Larry Sanders Show, which he also wrote for.

Stewart is appearing in the film The Faculty and stars in the soon-to-be-released Playing by Heart.

But the less diversified Kilborn had a big advantage over Stewart, in that the former ESPN SportsCenter co-host had plenty of good old-fashioned anchoring experience under his belt. He looked at home behind the anchor desk and had the ability to look comfortable, while still exuding plenty of energy.

In the trade, it's called relaxed intensity, which sounds ridiculous. That's because it is. But somehow, it works.

Stewart undoubtedly will loosen up in his new role. But in the meantime, some anchoring advice for my pal Jon:

Relax the body and lose the rigidity. Don't place the hands palms down on the anchor desk (a sure sign of nervousness since nobody sits at a desk with his hands palms down unless he's uptight). Try for more facial expression to get rid of that deer-in-the-headlights look.

Kilborn, despite his dry delivery, used lots of facial expression. Stewart has a long way to go to make those facial muscles work overtime. And does all this matter? Probably not, but I'm rooting for Stewart to shine and for The Daily Show to prosper.

"I know change can be painful, [snip]

 

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