"America's Best / Talk Show Host: Jon Stewart"
July 9, 2001
by Dick Cavett


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


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Copyright © 2001 Time. All rights reserved.
Thanks to Isaih for the article.

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