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.
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."
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.
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
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!
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."
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
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.
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."
a tailor-made series in his past, Stewart doesn't believe that
accepting the hand-me-down "Daily Show" amounts to professional
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.' "
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.
Stewart has always liked to stay on top of what's happening.
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.
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.
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."
the balloon? Hear ye, hear ye, find out on "The Daily Show,"
on pain of missing laughs.
week, Jon Stewart took over the helm of "The Daily Show," a
parody newscast on cable television channel Comedy Central.