With smart talk, shrewd insights and sly
wit, he is making the evening news a daily habit again
The set is a news desk, and the nice-looking
man behind it seems...um, troubled. About his life, perhaps? About
the news? A touch of indigestion? It's hard to tell, but it becomes
clear--and quickly--that he is funny. And smart.
Jon Stewart presides over Comedy Central's The
Daily Show, a blessed wedding of performer and format. Free of
the burden of a full stand-up monologue, Stewart is able to put
all his energy and wit into the news and guest spots. The word
energy is almost too strong. Much of Stewart's humor seems to
spring from an underlying terrain of world-weariness.
You could say there hasn't been such a soft-sell
comic presence since Wally Cox, but the comparison would be too
facile. There's nothing mousy about Stewart. The difference between
most comic hosts and Stewart is the difference between a brassy
sitcom and The Larry Sanders Show--for which, in fact, he was
a writer and actor.
While he was reporting the Bush-Gore Florida
lunacy on election night (Choose and Lose), Stewart's well-acted
cumulative fatigue evidently worried some literal-minded viewers
who thought he really was fighting sleep with No-Doz and coffee
while stoically providing slyly opinionated updates on the night's
events: "George W. Bush has obviously taken his home state of
Texas with 32 electoral votes. No big surprise, as the threat
of executions is a very big motivator." And later, "Bush has swept
the South... I seem to remember these states getting together
once before. I can't remember when, I don't recall, I think it
was something over the ethanol tax--or wait -- was it, oh, that's
right, the Civil War?"
Repeat viewing of Stewart's shows reveals good
things you missed the first time -- smallish matters of voice
shading, inflections and gestures begun but not completed. If
you're a latecomer to his charms, you'll wish your alleged friends
had demanded that you start watching a lot sooner. I'd like to
see everything he has ever done.
(Dick Cavett was the host of The Dick Cavett
Show from 1968 to 1975. He is currently starring on Broadway in
The Rocky Horror Show)
-- BORN: Nov. 28, 1962, in New York City
-- PROFESSIONAL DEBUT: The Bitter End nightclub
in Manhattan in 1987
-- WORK HABITS: "I get up at 6 a.m., have half
a grapefruit, jazzercise, then off to work"
-- CAREER HIGHLIGHT: Winning a Peabody Award
for television excellence this year
-- NEXT PROJECT: A role in Danny DeVito's film
about a TV kiddie-show host