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,"
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
PRAISES QUALITY OF TV SHOWS
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."