"Jon Stewart plans to keep pace with quick-witted Daily Show"
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
January 14, 1999
by Frazier Moore

 

It was a sight no man or woman alive had ever seen. It was instant history, and as we watched it unfolding on TV -- hear ye, hear ye -- we knew this was something we would never forget. Yes, this was unimpeachably Jon Stewart, in charge for the first time ever Monday as the host of Comedy Central's Daily Show.

Happily, it was no trial to watch. In Stewart's hands, The Daily Show was about as funny and fast-paced as before. But his swearing -- in, if you choose to call it that, was a signal event for the 2 1/2-year-old parody newscast that bills itself as "the most important television program... ever." And for its viewers: "I know change can be painful," Stewart told us with mock sincerity. "But from change comes growth."

Henceforth, Stewart will, uh, steward that growth from the anchor chair recently vacated by tall Craig Kilborn, who soon takes his high-altitude attitude to CBS's Late Late Show, replacing Tom Snyder.

And The Daily Show brings Stewart back to TV on a regular, ongoing basis: Sunday through Thursday at 11 p.m. - and repeats Monday through Friday at 8:30 a.m., 1 p.m., 7 p.m. and 1:30 a.m., and Saturdays at noon and 12:30 p.m.

It's a welcome return. In recent years, Stewart (no attitude; not tall) has been on TV with tantalizing infrequency. He filled in for Snyder and played a recurring role on HBO's talk-show parody The Larry Sanders Show. He also appeared in films (such as his current The Faculty and upcoming Playing By Heart) and wrote a book of loopy essays, Naked Pictures of Famous People.

He has done all that since 1995, when his late-night, syndicated The Jon Stewart Show was canceled after a single season. Now -- hear ye -- he's got another TV series! He's back!

Of course, Stewart gently reminds a reporter that during all that time he himself never suffered from his absence. "I felt like I was oddly not gone," said Stewart, wearing a mischievous smile. "Being a TV host is very much the same as not being on TV, except there's no camera and I didn't get to talk to the guys from Wings. Besides, I was working straight through, so I didn't even do the David Hartman thing and go out to Montana for fly-fishing."

As Stewart spoke in his small, sparse office, he was still a couple of weeks away from his Daily Show debut. A baseball bat and a tennis racket lay within reach behind his desk. A few days' stubble peppered his face. All in all, he seemed ready to go.

And, even with his chain smoking, he seemed carefree. "Oh, I have psychoses," he argued, "but they're about other things. Like, I want to buy a biosuit so the Super Bug can't get me. It's that sort of thing that keeps me awake.

"I'm looking forward to doing the show, to that feeling of daily reinforcement. You get up and you know that whatever stupid idea you have that morning you're going to get to put out that night."

Even with a tailor-made series in his past, Stewart doesn't believe that accepting the hand-me-down "Daily Show" amounts to professional backsliding.

"I like what they're doing with the show. I like the idea of it.

"As a kid, I never thought, 'I want to be a talk-show host,' " said the 36-year-old New Jersey native. "Some people growing up gazed into the sky and every cloud looked like Johnny Carson. I just wanted to be a good comic. And that was only after I got out of school: 'Well, what do I do now? I like to sleep late and I don't like working.' "

Chances are, Stewart won't get to sleep late and will have to work hard on "The Daily Show." Stuff has to be current, and each night's half-hour is taped at 6 p.m. Not much time each day to process the world, then play it for laughs.

Fortunately, Stewart has always liked to stay on top of what's happening.

"I like to watch the early local news," he said, "but not at 11, because I don't like to go to bed with that sort of chaos and pain in my head: 'This building collapsed today, and here is the little boy who lost his mother.' It's a lot to sit through just to get to the (gosh-darn) Giants.

"I also watch CNN," he added, "and I watch a lot of newsmagazines, because I DO want to know what's in that cheeseburger I'm eating.

"I like keeping up with the news, even though I think it's gotten so out of control. But that's what I like about 'The Daily Show': It's like checks and balances. This show seems to be a nice sort of pin in the balloon."

What's inside the balloon? Hear ye, hear ye, find out on "The Daily Show," on pain of missing laughs.

This week, Jon Stewart took over the helm of "The Daily Show," a parody newscast on cable television channel Comedy Central.

 

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Thanks to Dani for the article.

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