"Grammys"
Associated Press
February 21, 2001

 

Jon Stewart was almost ready for his close-up as Grammy host. He just needed to scribble a few jokes to perform in front of several million viewers.

The comedian and actor was bravely stepping in at the last minute to emcee Wednesday's awards show after Whoopi Goldberg canceled because of illness.

Goldberg bowed out several weeks ago, and Grammy officials delayed naming a replacement until last week. They wanted the controversy over rapper Eminem's performance to quiet down a bit so Stewart would get the attention he deserved, a Grammy spokeswoman said.

"Yeah, that's why, they didn't want to steal my thunder. Good theory," said the reliably sardonic Stewart. "They were actually waiting until Kelly Ripa was announced (as Regis Philbin's cohost) because they didn't want to step on her thunder."

So why did Stewart, host of Comedy Central's "Daily Show with Jon Stewart," agree to take the job?

"You opening up a new IHOP restaurant? I'll be there," Stewart joked. "I'm doing it because, quite frankly, when they blow through so many big show business names to get to you, they're so distraught you feel like you're on a suicide hot line."

Although he had little time to write Grammy material, Stewart seemed unfazed Tuesday. What else was he doing to get ready for the ceremony, which drew nearly 28 million TV viewers last year?

"I know what I DON'T do to get ready. They've locked my hotel minibar and they won't let me in it. And I told them I just want the Toblerone candy. I don't want the little bottles of (liquor)."

No, seriously. Did you ask any of your colleagues for advice?

"What are they gonna say? 'Don't ruin your career this night. Try not to do that."'

The show, which is airing 8 p.m. EST Wednesday on CBS, has a momentum of its own, Stewart said.

"These are 16 brilliant musical acts. The chef has baked a delicious cake; I'm just trying not to get a hair in it. ... If you can get in a couple of funny things and kind of hold the show together with a nice tone, then I think people will be pleased."

Eminem is expected to be a central figure Wednesday. He won two Grammys last year, and this year was nominated for the prestigious album of the year award and in three rap categories. (Other nominees for album of the year are Paul Simon, for "You're the One"; Beck for "Midnite Vultures"; Radiohead for "Kid A," and Steely Dan for "Two Against Nature."')

Eminem's planned appearance with Elton John has drawn criticism from gay rights groups and others upset by the controversial rapper's anti-homosexual and anti-female lyrics.

"I think they're sincere about being upset with that and they've got a right to be upset. Apparently some of the stuff he (Eminem) says is incredibly vituperative," Stewart said.

The bisexual John's agreement to sing with Eminem could be a way for two performers with very different viewpoints to "work together and humanize each other," Stewart said -- or maybe a cynical business move by both.

The thorny issue won't keep Stewart from cracking wise, will it?

"Wait a minute, I'm supposed to be doing music jokes? There goes my all-star basketball game junk."

 

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