"Jon's Stewart big: Comic's Daily Show is a hit and award-winner"
Toronto Sun
September 20, 2002
by Bill Brioux


Who's the most trusted news voice in America today?

Some say it is Jon Stewart, the acerbic host of the mock newsmagazine The Daily Show, seen nightly at 11 p.m. on The Comedy Network.

Stewart comes to Toronto this Saturday to headline the 5th anniversary salute to the Comedy Network at Roy Thomson Hall. Homegrown Comedy stars Mike Bullard, Derek Edwards, Jessica Holmes, Jeremy Hotz and Elvira Kurt will also perform at the event.

Stewart plans to perform "vulgar, vulgar diatribes against man and nature ... and then of course ending with a song," he says on the phone from his New York office.

The comedian, who turns 40 in November, took over The Daily Show from Craig Kilborn in 1999 and turned it into a consistently funny, Peabody Award-winning satire.

"Yes, we're very impressive," he says. "We win a Peabody and the whole world goes to s---. Explain that to me."

Making fun of U.S. and world headlines on a nightly basis got a whole lot tougher one year ago with the attacks on the U.S. and the constant threat of war. "Like any daily comedy show, some days the work is inspired and has wonderful moments of satire and other days you're producing a comedy-like substance that looks and feels like comedy with real comedy pulp particles," says Stewart.

I offered my theory about North America turning en mass to stupid shows like The Osbournes and The Bachelor in its hour of grief, but Stewart shot it down. "We have always embraced stupidity," he says. "We have always worshipped at the altar of a man bent over with his butt crack exposed, fixing a refrigerator."

I then tried my argument that a chill had set in post 9/11, with voices of consciousness like Bill Maher and Dennis Miller being replaced with the likes of Jimmy Kimmell and Anna Nicole Smith.


Stewart shook it off. Maher and Miller were both nine years into their shows and ready to quit, he says. TV networks nowadays make decisions based on business, not on consciousness. Sponsors aren't as vigilant as they were when shows like The Smothers Brothers were silenced for speaking out against the Vietnam War. The only collusion going on at the networks is clone shows like Friends or CSI or anything else that works.

Besides, the TV spectrum is so fragmented today there will always be room for dissident voices. And while he thanked Anna Nicole Smith for lowering the bar ("I almost feel since that's been on the air I don't have to try as hard"), he also feels this is a golden age of TV, singling out shows like The Sopranos and 24. "I feel very good about the high levels of TV," he says. "I'd put The Simpsons up against any sitcom, ever."

Bottom line, the percentage of quality TV hasn't changed, says Stewart, it's just that "the playing field is so large that the actual volume of crap you have to sit through is larger."

So what's with all the Canadian references on his show? Daily even goofed on those "I AM Canadian" beer spots. "We love Canada," says Stewart, explaining that it's just location. "You're the nearest English-speaking people to us, so we feel comfortable enough to trade barbs because we know you won't be burning our flag or storming our gates."

As for the constant talk that he's the heir apparent to Letterman or taking over Tonight (chatter that dates back to the days he "guest-hosted" on Larry Sanders), Stewart says he's very happy right where he is. "My name is constantly out there to replace people and yet I never do," he says. "That is the beauty of being me."


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