"At the Grammys"
Philadelphia Inquirer
February 18, 2002
by Gail Shister


At the Grammys, oldster Jon Stewart will boogie, safely

There's at least one big-time advantage to hosting the Grammy Awards at the hoary old age of 39, says Jon Stewart.

"It's an opportunity to see a live show without getting squashed in a mosh pit. I don't get to concerts anymore. As an old man, you don't really look that cool."

The 44th annual Grammys will air live from L.A.'s cavernous Staples Center at 8 p.m. Feb. 27 on CBS. It's a return engagement for Stewart, who did last year's event in the 20,000-seat arena.

Stewart, anchor of Comedy Central's edgy Daily Show since January 1999, "stopped paying attention [to rock] when Toto retired. I don't know what's going on with kids now."

Despite that handicap, Stewart has heard of "most" of the groups scheduled to perform in the Grammycast. (The roster includes Destiny's Child, Train, Alison Krauss, Ralph Stanley and U2.)

Not bad for a North Jersey kid who grew up on Kiss and Peter Frampton. And Van Halen, "for the lifestyle they promised us and didn't deliver on," Stewart told reporters in a conference call.

As for his comedy bits, there are no restrictions, he says, except "no music jokes." (Ba-da-bing!)

But seriously, folks, CBS "is pretty cool about stuff. Last year, there was no artistic censoring at all. I was not allowed to touch U2's fruit plate, but that was more of a personal rider."

While "it's probably not time for an Enron diatribe," Stewart says pop star Mariah Carey, whose huge contract was just bought out, is a good target - "She's paid $28 million not to sing. I could be paid not to do jokes."

How about President Bush, who's been pretty much a sacred cow since Sept. 11?

"He's not sacred now. . . . There just aren't as many dissenting voices. Most people agree with [his foreign policy]. His 'axis of evil' comments . . . and his domestic-policy issues are fair game."

A veteran stand-up, Stewart concedes that some of his shots were duds last year, due to the size of Staples.

"I'm not used to playing such an intimate venue. I've never honestly been in a room that large. I could sort of make out Kid Rock, just because of the hat. . . .

"I chose to believe they were smiling. I was pretty much too hammered to second-guess myself."

Speaking of second-guessing, Stewart acknowledges that CBS is perceived as being, shall we say, on the gray side.

"The perception is that Angela Lansbury [of Murder, She Wrote] is still on it. . . . Anybody under 60 pretty much has an edge there."


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