Jon Stewart is wasting far too much time in
a conference call with reporters trying to explain why he was
chosen to host the Grammy Awards for a second consecutive year.
The hilarious anchor of Comedy Central's
The Daily Show is giving it a predictably good effort.
"I don't know that I can" answer that,
he says. "I didn't ask me, so it's hard. . . . Last year, they
basically had just gotten down to the S's, I think," before choosing
him to substitute for an ailing Whoopi Goldberg. "They were sort
of in a bind."
OK, ha-ha and all that. But the real question
went unasked: Why wouldn't he be asked to return? I say
this even though Stewart's performance last year was something
of a disappointment, a bit flat for a guy with his edge. Seems
LA's Staples Center was a big room to play.
"This year, I have made adjustments in
terms of amplification," he says. "I will be equipped with a megaphone.
. . . This year, I've decided to shout the entire presentation."
Comments like those are why I'm more than
willing to give Stewart a second chance. No one in TV is quicker
or funnier, as any five minutes of The Daily Show proves
- or any five minutes of this conference call, even. For instance,
did he second-guess last year's performance?
"I was pretty much too hammered for that."
Later, apropos of nothing:
"I will not answer any questions about
my controversial gold medal. Let me just say this about the Russian
judge - it was not necessarily a sexual (relationship). It was
just that she needed a green card."
OK, just one more. After a winding answer
about when it will be OK to make fun of George W. Bush again,
an answer that he worries didn't make any sense:
"Never get high before the interview. Always
after the interview. What was I thinking?"
These would indeed seem to be, ahem, heady
times for Stewart. The Daily Show's coverage of the 2000
election won a prestigious Peabody Award despite its not being
a real newscast. (Which, frankly, doesn't make it that different
from the way "legitimate" news operations covered it; The Daily
Show's nightly parody routinely lays bare those outfits' shortcomings.)
Recently, Stewart was profiled to good effect in the New Yorker.
And like David Letterman before him, he had his coming-of-age,
teary-eyed post-Sept. 11 moment on national TV. It happened on
The Daily Show's first broadcast after the attacks.
"I didn't feel great about it," he says
of breaking down. "I also felt like I had to speak how I felt,
hopefully honestly, for my own edification. I don't think anyone
in the TV industry likes to feel like they've lost control of
their emotions to that extent, but it was an honest moment for
Stewart, like most comedians, can be just
as interesting when he's being serious as when he's joking. He
refrains, for instance, from trying to put Sept. 11 into perspective,
even though, much like his real-life compatriots Rather, Brokaw
and Jennings, the event has helped define him.
"I think it's too early to tell, quite
honestly," he says. "Events such as that, I imagine it will be
years . . . before we understand what that meant in our lives.
I've certainly never experienced anything of that magnitude, and
I hope I never do again."
But before we get too carried away with
the deep thinking here, let's remember this is Jon Stewart talking,
not George Will. Sept. 11 did, he allows, have some effect on
"I spend a lot more time in an underground
bunker with Saltines and distilled water."
As to the matter at hand, Stewart claims
no expertise when it comes to pop music:
"I gotta say I stopped paying attention
when Toto retired, so I don't know what the hell's going on with
As proof, he lists favorites of his youth
as, among others, Peter Frampton, KISS ("I was indeed part of
the KISS Army"), the Outlaws, Molly Hatchett ("for the T-shirts")
and "Van Halen for the lifestyle they promised us and didn't deliver
Yet he's not worried.
"The Grammys deal in not necessarily a
very obscure universe," he says. "I've mostly heard of everybody."
That's a start. I'm happy to see where
Article copyright © 2002 Arizona
Republic. All rights reserved.
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