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Friday, January 23, 2009

10 years of zen with Jon Stewart

Is there anyone who doesn't love Jon Stewart? Not here at Channel Surfing, anyway. We can't go to sleep at night until getting our half-hour face time with the smartest, wittiest guy in late-night. (The weeks the show is on break? Forget about it — we're awake for days on end, crying "Where's my Moment of Zen!?")

We don't know who hands out these things, but since entering his tenth year as host of "The Daily Show," Jon's officially earned the title of "television institution," and he's one well worth honoring. Channel Surfing's Malavika Jagannathan (who may or may not own a "Mrs. Jon Stewart" T-shirt) and Adam Reinhard take a look back at their favorite moments with the King of Fake News.

First, a look at a fresh-faced kid from Jersey, making his debut Jan. 11, 1999, on a mid-level cable network's fledgling flagship show:

(Side note: Sorry for the ads that may pop up before these videos. They're annoying, but the clips are worth it.)

Stewart was a replacement for ESPN transplant and smarmy bastard Craig Kilborn. The show until that point mostly covered celebrity gossip and news of the weird, like Bigfoot sightings and David Hasselhoff and crap like that. It got decent enough ratings and fairly good reviews, according to Variety's Daniel Frankel (by the way, Variety has a fantastic series or articles commemorating Stewart's decade tenure, that you can check out by clicking here), but was entirely one-note, and probably wouldn't still be around today if Kilborn hadn't ditched ship for his own CBS show in '98. (Is that still on, by the way? Anybody know?)

But Stewart took over, both as host and executive producer, and the show slowly turned a new leaf, focusing more on politics and the news media. Things really got moving with the 2000 election, and the kerfuffle in Florida.

Adam: This clip in particular is one of my favorites. The recount mess was finally over, and Bush was about to begin his reign of ineptitude. I was heartbroken at Al Gore's defeat, but when Chief Political Correspondent Stephen Colbert opined that Gore's next step in the appeals process should be with the Superfriends ... well, who can fear for the future of their country in the face of such hilarity? This clip also shows how the interaction between Jon and his correspondents — especially Colbert — was always gold.

Malavika: As much as I love Jon for his sarcasm — and love him, I do — his greatest asset is that he actually cares underneath all that wise-ass commentary. Nowhere was that more apparent than when he addressed the events of Sept. 11, 2001. Apologizing for being another "entertainment show beginning with another overwrought speech of a shaken host," Stewart was emotional and honest. (And elicited a few laughs)

Adam: One of Jon's strongest assets has been his skills as an interviewer. From movie stars to Nobel laureates to presidents, he's talked to damn near everybody in his 10 years behind the desk. He seems to have a unique ability to not only make people feel comfortable and get them laughing, but also not shy away from tough questions. And if he just happens to make some stuffy blowhard — like, say, Bill O'Reilly — look like a tool because they underestimated Jon's intelligence, well, that just makes for good TV.

Malavika: In 2004, Jon Stewart went on CNN's "Crossfire" — a show he'd often mocked privately and publicly — and pleaded with hosts Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson to "stop hurting America" with their "partisan hackery." Expecting Stewart to be his usual jokey self, the two were blindsided by his honest assessment of what they were doing in the name of "debate." Accused by Carlson of soft-balling questions for John Kerry's appearance on "The Daily Show," Stewart's outrage is palpable in his still hilarious response that it wasn't his job to ask the tough questions: "You're on CNN. The show that leads into me is puppets making crank phone calls." It was a beautiful sight then. It is a beautiful sight now. Plus, he called Carlson a dick. CNN cancelled "Crossfire" soon after Stewart's appearance. Watch the entire thing here:

Malavika: Jon Stewart's mockery of former Vice President Dick Cheney always wavered between sublime and ridiculous. Even the most stalwart Republican could smile (at least, I imagine so) at Jon's valiantly miserable attempt to mimic the Veep's style of — er — speech. (Let's be honest, Jon isn't the best actor, although I did see "The Faculty" three times because he was in it, but refused to see "Death to Smoochy"). The second-in command, oft mocked by Stewart for keeping a man-sized safe in his office and removing his house from Google Earth, is the subject of the show's funniest segments aptly named "You Don't Know Dick." In this following clip, "Even Dick Don't Know Dick," a Cheney interview from 1994 surfaces to contradict Cheney of the present.

Jon's contract with "The Daily Show" runs through next year, and according to Variety there are no signs he won't re-up again. Because really, what a sweet gig he's got. He gets to be a silly goofball night after night, express his views on a national stage, chit-chat with the likes of Jimmy Carter and Angelina Jolie, and have input into almost every aspect of the production. Why give that up? It's a good thing we love and respect the guy so much, because otherwise we'd be jealous as hell.

Now here it is, your 10 Years of Jon Stewart Moment of Zen:

Malavika Jagannathan,; Adam Reinhard,



Nice post, guys. Jon Stewart is an American hero!

By Anonymous Anonymous, At January 27, 2009 at 12:49 PM  

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