Monday, March 06, 2006

Jon Stewart: Damned Because He Didn't, Damned If He Had

I am stunned at the criticism being hurled at Jon Stewart today. Somebody at Salon wrote a barely coherent screed about how "hard" he "sucked" and Tom Shales -- who never likes anything -- said he should "keep his Daily job." Ha.

Most of the criticism seems to blame Jon for not bringing his Daily Show flava to the Oscars.

Remember when David Letterman hosted? There was a great deal of excitement beforehand. He came on the show, and literally turned it into an episode of Late Night, right down to the stupid pet trick. I thought it was very funny, but he has been punished to this day for it.

I'm sure foremost in Jon Stewart's mind was the Letterman caveat: don't bring my usual schtick with me. Be dignified. Remember the occasion.

I thought he succeeded. I was surprised and delighted at how sly and funny and Carson-like he was, in a way no host other than Steve Martin has been.

But there seems to be no way to win.


Mary Lewys said...

Oh, I loved this Oscars because of Jon Stewart. I normally don't watch and found them less pompous than in years past when I did try to watch. I think the criticism he's getting is unfair, but I was afraid he was going to be too hip for the room.

Sydelle Pearl said...

There ISN'T any way to win. Last year, Chris Rock got into trouble for being too edgy and not respectful enough. Stewart brought some much-needed genuine humor and put his very distinctive stamp on the show, without getting into partisan politics or other dangerous areas.

Michael Markowitz said...

I agree with both of you. I thought he was great. I hope he comes back. As Matt Lauer said, I think he's the kind of guy who can keep delivering year after year.

peeky said...

They didn't seem to entirely "get" Jon. It's one thing to joke about how shallow Hollywood is if you're Hollywood, too, but Jon isn't Hollywood. Maybe that bugged them. I liked him. They wouldn't even laugh at Scientology! Scary.

Dec said...

"..and none of those issues was ever a problem again.."

He was clearly nervous at the start, but got rolling very nicely. Peeky's right, though.. they didn't get him. It was like he was Chris Rock working a room full of Sean Penns.

The Scientology bit was absolutely priceless.

Michael Markowitz said...

"And none of those issues..." was one of my favorites, too.

So was "Good night and good luck" being how George Clooney ends his dates.

Oddly enough, after all these years, I can still make myself laugh remembering a joke from Letterman's Oscar monologue that was in the same form:

"Another nominated movie was 'Eat, Drink, Man, Woman'... Coincidentally, that's also how Arnold Schwarzenegger asked Maria Shriver out on their first date."

Michael Markowitz said...

And another thing:

Every media outlet reported that the 39 million viewers who watched the Academy Awards this year was down from the 42 million who watched in 2005.

Several reported that 43.5 million watched in 2004.

Not one mainstream media outlet that I can find reported that only 33 million watched in 2003... six million fewer than this supposedly "disastrous" year.

Ken Levine said...

Okay, this is from my blog but it applies and it's how I feel on the subject.

No wonder everyone turns down hosting the Oscars. It’s like walking into a propeller. Jon Stewart did as well as could be expected for any rookie. And yet, I see he’s getting a shitload of criticism.

First complaint: He was nervous at the start. Well, DUH!!!

He was playing to an audience of 5000 clenched sphincters.

He was totally out of his element.

Half the viewing audience was Red State idiots who would have only been happy if the cast of HEE HAW hosted the event.

A billion people who can’t speak English were judging him worldwide.

And the blood of big name past hosts who bombed is what gives the red carpet its color.

Second: He caused the ratings to be down this year. This only reinforces Hollywood’s total disconnect with the public. The ratings were down because no one saw the nominated movies or gave a shit! The Oscars have become the Tonys (except if they were the Tonys BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN would have won).

Third: He’s being blasted for his best line of the night – “Number of Oscars…Three 6 Mafia 1, Martin Scorcese 0”. It’s a racial slur, shows a lack of respect, yada yada.

Gosh, have we learned nothing from our vaunted Best Picture CRASH??? Why can’t we all just learn to get along, people???

Here’s the truth: “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp” is a horrible song. Maybe the worst Oscar winning song EVER. And as for not receiving their proper respect, Three 6 Mafia are the same wordsmiths that gave us such timeless gems as “Slob On My Knob”, “Pussy Got You Hooked”, and “Sippin on Sizzurp”.


I hope Jon Stewart is asked back. Next year he’ll be less nervous, maybe a movie that isn’t a big lesson will be up for awards, and Martin Scorcese will at least tie the score.

Michael Markowitz said...

Well put, Ken. I'll go a step further. I'll say the ratings were as HIGH as they were BECAUSE of him. You have five best picture nominees no one saw!

I can also add something else to the debate. My parents missed the first hour, so I was dubbing it onto a DVD for them while I worked in the other room. And all of a sudden I looked up and realized, based on what I was hearing, "Jon Stewart's monologue is KILLING!

So I went back in and watched it again, and realized that the idea of Jon's "slow start" might be a myth born of visual cues: the poorly-chosen reaction shots of Charlize and Keira and Heath and Joaquin (Also Jon's unfortunate, nervous choice to say "this is good stuff" after his first joke that didn't go over huge...the Angelina Jolie one.)

But if you just listen -- shades of the Nixon-Kennedy debate -- he slayed 'em.

What enraged me was that one cable news channel I watched showed a clip to illustrate that he bombed ... They showed him saying "I don't really have a joke here." and then cut it off before showing that he actually got a huge ovation for that line!

Everyone I've spoken to who was in that room says they were stunned to find out that anyone thought he had done poorly. The buzz was that he should come back every year.

The naysayers are people who simply don't like the show and don't like that he didn't turn it into something else. You can't please them.