"News And Laughs At 11"
National Post (Canada.com)
October 5, 2002
by Aaron Wherry


Critics love to point to Jon Stewart -- comedian and host of Comedy Central's The Daily Show-- as a newsman for a new generation, detailing the day's events to twentysomethings everywhere with wit and satire. Jon Stewart loves to point out that those critics are wrong.

"If you don't know anything about the news, our show isn't going to make much sense to you," he said this week from his office in New York.

Since inheriting The Daily Show from Craig Kilborn in 1999, he has made the show more news oriented, pushing it further away from its late-night talk show brethren. Airing on the Comedy Network in Canada each night at 11 p.m. opposite other news shows -- each edition opens with a short newscast from Stewart and his pseudo-correspondents in which everything from foreign affairs to the stock markets to Washington's domestic policy are lampooned.

Stewart, who is in Toronto tonight to perform as part of the Comedy Network's fifth anniversary celebrations, then concludes each show with a celebrity interview that often feels out of place, given the show's public affairs flavour. The addition of guests such as a former UN weapons inspector have reinforced the current-events theme, but the New Jersey-born comedian says he has no plans to eliminate the celebrity chitchat.

"Honestly, one of the reasons that it's there is we just can't write that much," he says. "We've tried to make the interview segment somewhat different from what you might see on other [late night shows]. But the truth is, it is what it is and we do the best we can with it. It's not a part of the show that any of us necessarily go 'I can't wait to get hold of that interview segment and make it happen.' "

He also has no plans to follow his predecessor to the network talk-show circuit: "I don't think I would enjoy it as much. Could I do it? Yeah. I've played karaoke bars, I've gone on in front of strippers, I could do a lot of things. Anything's better than working a real job. I really enjoy the fact that this is what I get to do."

But just what he does is up for debate. While some count him among the Dan Rathers and Peter Jennings of the world, Stewart says that kind of overblown hype is silly: "We get a million viewers. There are 350 million people in this country. You know what I mean?" he says. "It's like when people say about jokes, 'Where do you draw the line?' Well, why don't people ask that to corporate heads? Why don't they ask that to people that do things that impact people's lives in an enormously explicit way. What we do is implicit. It is in the ether.

"The national anthem is an amazing song. Did it win any wars? No, but it adds an atmosphere and a flavour and it adds to a national dialogue. Jokes don't destroy things. They don't kill anybody. They're just atmospheric."

[Photo caption: JON STEWART: "If you don't know anything about the news, our show isn't going to make much sense."]


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