"Media Notes: Mr. Stewart Goes to Washington"
Washington Post
November 4, 2002
by Howard Kurtz


When a technical glitch forced Jon Stewart to retape the beginning of his first "Daily Show" here, he told the audience that Washington types were steeped enough in political play-acting to know what to do.

"You'll laugh as if this is the first time you've heard it," the comedian ordered.

While much of the country will be watching Dan, Tom and Peter sort through the election returns tomorrow night, those who don't take the campaign all that seriously may flip to Stewart's live coverage on Comedy Central.

"We're going to start drinking around 5 and then just see what happens," Stewart says.

How interested is his audience in, say, House races? "They're excited for the first 300, 350. After that it becomes tedious."

But the irreverent "Daily Show" is no joke for politicians trying to connect with a younger crowd that doesn't watch the Sunday morning gabfests. That's why North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, a likely presidential candidate, did the show during its stint in Washington last week, joining such previous guests as John McCain (who recently hosted "Saturday Night Live"), Joe Lieberman, Michael Bloomberg, Chuck Schumer, Bob Dole, Bob Kerrey and Mary Bono.

"Clearly, it's an audience of bright young people who watch that show and an opportunity to let them get acquainted with him," says Edwards spokesman Mike Briggs, adding that the senator's 20-year-old daughter is a huge fan.

And what does the visiting New Yorker make of the capital? "The culture of Washington is beautifully analogous to the culture of L.A. -- self-important and out of touch," Stewart says.

What makes the program bitingly funny is the deadpan way it mocks the conventions of television news. Stewart tells viewers the election will include correspondent reports and "hopefully a great deal of irresponsible speculation." He tosses to one reporter, Stephen Colbert, at the Capitol -- actually standing in front of a screen a few feet away on which the gleaming dome has been projected.

He quizzes "senior political analyst" Rachael Harris from "beautiful Anytown, USA" on what folks are saying about the election, which turns out to be: "That sniper thing was so scary. What was up with that sniper?"

By hitting the well-worn cliches, the anchor-speak and the neatly packaged reports, "The Daily Show" exposes TV inanity through cheap imitation. As Colbert intoned in front of a giant screen that read "TRUST": "It all comes down to who's going to win the voters' trust. That's who's going to win the whole enchilada."

That was a parody, right?

[Photo caption: "Daily Show" host Jon Stewart has been quipping his way around town. Tomorrow's show airs live.]


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