Tuesday, February 19, 2008


I’ve been watching “The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart for years, long before it became the ‘in’ thing to do. He appealed to my sense of orneriness and he did a great job of ridiculing people and situations that deserved ridicule. In years gone by his crew of ‘correspondents’ was amazingly talented – in particular Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert, and Rob Corddry. Behind the scenes, of course, were the writers who came up with the ideas for most of what we saw.

When Colbert left in 2005 and began hosting his own show, “The Colbert Report,” I watched a few times and then decided to drop it. I thought it was OK, but not outstanding. I quietly assumed the “Report” wouldn’t make it and Colbert would go back to “The Daily Show” where he belonged.

The world didn’t agree with me. Colbert became more and more popular, and began showing up on magazine covers, “60 Minutes,” “Charlie Rose,” and more. About a year ago I relented a tiny bit and began watching Colbert’s opening monologue. Not the whole show mind you, just stuck my toe in the “Report” water and kept it there.

And so it stayed until the writer’s strike late last year when they both went off the air – for a while. After weeks of re-runs and replacement shows and with the strike in its second month, Stewart and Colbert came back with new shows without their writers. At that point, for some reason I can’t explain, I began watching both shows in their entirety. Maybe I’d just missed my daily dose of news spoofing and wanted to make up for lost time.

I began my new watching regimen with the same assumptions I’d had before – Stewart was a gem; Colbert was OK. After about a week I realized I was appreciating Stephen Colbert more and more. Even without the writers “The Colbert Report” was quite good. And he, in an extempore mode on many occasions, was outstanding. Stewart on the other hand was really struggling to get through his shows. At best they were “OK.” Often they were downright lousy. And he knew it. He seemed embarrassed to be a part of what was going on.

Even so, I’m cutting Jon Stewart some slack. I could conclude that he’s just not very good without his writers. And I could conclude that Stephen Colbert may be better when the writers are working but does quite well without them. But even with those conclusions I’m not about to give up on my man Jon. His track record is too good to write him off. We’ll see what happens now that the writers are back.

In the meantime I’m now a devoted Colbert addict. So for the foreseeable future I’ll be watching all of both “The Daily Show,” and “The Colbert Report.” Except this week – they’re showing re-runs while Stewart is off preparing to host the Oscars Sunday. Hummm – I wonder if they should have asked Colbert to do it?


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