Last year, Jon Stewart was the recording academy's
version of an unrehearsed Broadway understudy, summoned on short
notice to host the Grammy Awards after Whoopi Goldberg backed
out because of illness.
"They had just basically gotten down to the
S's, I think," he said. "They were in sort of a bind. I don't
think I even locked in until the last week."
Stewart survived and fared well with the critics,
so he was invited back, with the more customary couple months'
notice, to host the 44th annual Grammy Awards airing at 7 p.m.
Wednesday on CBS.
Not that having all that lead time makes a
lot of difference in his show preparation. About 10 days ago,
the host of Comedy Central's news parody "Daily Show" admitted
he hadn't a clue what he would talk about in the opening monologue,
other than that it would not be an Enron diatribe.
"Mariah Carey was paid $28 million not to
sing," Stewart said. "So we don't know. At the last minute,
I could be paid millions of dollars not to tell jokes."
Last year's experience was an eye-opener for
Stewart. He faced unprecedented challenges in trying to appeal
to the vast arena's audience as well as TV viewers, and he learned
that rock and pop stars don't go anywhere alone.
"I didn't realize music people travel with
the entourages they travel with," he said. "They almost look
like human icecutters. They surrounded Elton John, and they
were cruising him through the back hallways of the Staples Center.
"It was exciting to see the tops of those
people's heads and go, `Wow, who's that? Who's that surrounded
by gigantic people?'" The best part of the evening, he said,
was when the artists took to the stage and he could kick back
and be a fan.
"I don't get to go to concerts anymore because
as an old man you don't really look that cool in the audience
anymore," said Stewart, 39. "So this is an opportunity for me
to see a live show, a nice live music show again, without getting
my jaw broken in a mosh pit."