Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Jon Stewart II: What a Difference a Set Makes

Well, I wasn't as strong as I thought I'd be; I ended up watching the Daily Show again as soon as it came back on (after moving into its new studio) and I have to say the great Jon and his producer have made the necessary adjustments to keep the show viable. I get it now: you don't want to be Andy Kaufman, you want to be Mort Sahl/Charlie Rose.

Somehow, the new set delivered the message better than any segment could have: Jon is embracing his political importance. There is no couch anymore; only a gigantic desk (of the Swedish minimalist "Ikea" school) at which Jon and guest both sit in swivel office chairs. My wife commented that this would not work for movie starlets wanting to show off their pretty dresses, but I don't think Jon plans to have too many more starlets on: the line-up, at least for this week, is all authors of important non-fiction books.

What's more, Jon is less sweaty in the interviews. He still plays for laughs, but he makes more convincing attempts to pretend he's read the books; and he lets the guests talk more. Moreover, the tone of the segments is unabashedly political and Jon now seems free to deliver his punchlines without a nervous giggle or a self-deprecating glance. He realizes now he is not playing to stoned college kids, but the New York Times op ed board and he seems at piece with that, now.

I may not wet my pants with helpless laughter with this new format, but I will keep watching. For one thing, there's nothing else on. For another, a show of pure political satire -- as opposed to an annoying hybrid -- is worth watching.

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