'The Daily Show' reaps Emmy nods

Jon Stewart lauded for satire

Monday, August 4, 2003

— Jon Stewart could barely contain himself.

A congressman had publicly called a colleague a "fruitcake" and, since it happened on a Friday night, Stewart couldn't joke about it on Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" until three days later.

"I do believe we need to go to a 24-hour fake news channel," he said. "Fox can't be the only fake news channel out there."

Stewart can't wait to bare the absurdities of the news and the people who cover it, and his sharp humor has made "The Daily Show" a growing force. No one hit the comic mark more consistently during the war in Iraq. As an election year approaches, Stewart's in top form.

He and "The Daily Show" are up for five Emmys next month, and the Television Critics Assn. gave him two awards last month. The critics even nominated "The Daily Show" for best achievement in news, along with "60 Minutes" and "Nightline."

During unfunny times, viewers have responded to Stewart's ability to make fun. The show's average nightly audience has nearly doubled from 427,000 in 1999, the year he took over, to 788,000 so far this year.

"Even though terrible things are going on around us, I would hope that wouldn't mean that the sense of humor is lost," Stewart said. "The idea isn't to make jokes about horrible things. The idea is to find the absurdity in the difficult circumstances around us."

Stewart helps keep political satire alive for a young audience that -- the experts say -- doesn't watch the news. The show's fake "debate" about foreign policy, using film clips to show President Bush arguing about nation-building with presidential candidate Bush, was as pointed as a political cartoon.

"He's really strong at political satire," said CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer, whose first name, naturally, has made him a target of Stewart's barbs. "I don't know of anybody who does it better than he does."

"The Daily Show" recognizes that its audience has an astute media awareness, too. Stewart made note last week that The New York Times used an obituary of comedian Bob Hope written by a reporter, Vincent Canby, who died in 2000.

Stewart also didn't let the latest odd Dan Rather moment pass by. He played tape of when the CBS anchor, in a deadpan voice, recited lyrics to "Take Me Home, Country Road" when former POW Jessica Lynch returned to West Virginia.

"I'm just glad he didn't keep going," Stewart said later. "He could have. There's more choruses. He could have gone into 'Annie's Song.' He could have gone into Jim Croce. He was on a roll."