takes over as the host of Comedy Central's 'Daily Show
tomorrow night, but don't expect many changes in the nightly news
parody. ''Except I'll be reading the news with a Yiddish accent,''
Mr. Stewart warned, and proceeded to ad-lib the day's headlines
sounding uncannily like Jackie Mason. ''We're going after the
audience that never got over the cancellation of Chicken Soup,''
he said, referring to the Jackie Mason-Lynn Redgrave sitcom that
made a brief and forgettable appearance in 1989.
what changes does the stand-up comedian foresee for the show,
which has established a loyal following over the past two years?
During an interview in the TriBeCa offices of Busboy Productions,
his Miramax-based production company, Mr. Stewart, 36, professed
not to know where the show was headed. ''I'm going into this thinking
that it's a great show, I have a pretty strong comic voice, and
we're going to spend the first three months trying to blend those
two things. It's not rocket science.''
original host, Craig Kilborn, a former ESPN announcer, left last
month to take over Tom Snyder's Late Late Show on CBS.
Mr. Kilborn blended boyish charm with a sardonic attitude that
perfectly reflected the show's viewpoint. Mr. Stewart, who is
handsomer in person than in his photos, which often exploit his
willingness to look goofy for the camera, declined to compare
his style to his predecessor's, other than to note that he is
significantly shorter than 6-foot-4 Kilborn. ''They're getting
rid of the tallest people on the show so that I don't look ridiculous,''
Smithberg, the show's executive producer, pointed out that the
two men are ''polar opposites.'' ''Craig likes to gaze in the
mirror,'' she said. ''Jon doesn't own a mirror. Craig tends to
appeal to frat boys, Jon to rock-and-rollers.''
In fact, the
studio audience at taping of the show last month was composed
almost entirely of college-age men, making it raucously clear
that after two years the still show runs very smoothly. ''Every
day the world deals us a hand,'' Ms. Smithberg said. ''And we've
built a machine that can cope with it.''
On that ''machine,''
an opening ''Headlines'' segment intersperses actual news footage
with wry commentary from the host, and on-location segments feature
reports from the show's ''correspondents.'' Then there is ''The
Five Questions,'' a regular feature in which a celebrity guest
is interviewed by the host and then asked such toughies as ''Goobers
or Raisinets?''; this is in many respects Mr. Kilborn's signature
segment, and may follow him to CBS, though it's owned by Comedy
Show With Jon Stewart (as it is now called) is taped in Manhattan
four days a week (Monday through Thursday) at 6:30 P.M. for broadcast
that night at 11, so the pressure to produce something that is
both timely and funny is intense. ''It's a writer-driven show,''
Mr. Stewart noted. ''The fuel is really topical, and I'm accustomed
to writing jokes quickly. On paper it will be the exact same show
as before. On paper Letterman and Leno are the exact
same show. But there will be a different atmosphere.''
Show won't be Mr. Stewart's first regular television job.
He had a recurring role as the fictitious guest host on the final
season of The Larry Sanders Show and was the host of his
own late-night talk show, first on MTV and later in national syndication,
from 1993 to 1995. He's also appearing in two movies : The
Faculty, directed by Robert Rodriguez, and Playing by Heart
(opening later this month) with Gillian Anderson and Sean
not acting or writing, will remain his focus. ''I still don't
have the actor's vocabulary down,'' he said. ''Interviewers always
ask me to describe my character in a film, and all I can say is,
'Well, he's my height.' ''
hopes the show's satiric take on the news will encourage people
to lighten up. ''Impeachment? Y2K? Look, my fear is whether we'll
survive so many Dateline's and 20/20's.'' You watch
those shows and you'd think we were falling apart: 'You won't
believe what's in that cheeseburger!' 'Did you know that your
airbag could decapitate you?' ''
he added, ''The Daily Show is one of the most responsible
news organizations because we're not pretending to be news in
the first place. Our one rule is, no faking.''