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Comedian Jon Stewart to host 78th Academy Awards

Friday, January 6, 2006

American comedian and Daily Show anchor Jon Stewart has been chosen to host the 78th Annual Academy Awards. This is not Stewart's first time hosting an awards show as he hosted the Grammys in 2001 and 2002.

Jon Stewart

His choice by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences shows their continuing attempt to target a younger viewing audience. Last year's host was Chris Rock, also a comedian who is popular with young adults, whose performance and jokes at the expense of celebrities irked some Academy members. The Academy has also been seeking an Oscar host with the appeal of popular hosts such as Billy Crystal, Johnny Carson, and Bob Hope.

The choice further demonstrates Stewart's transformation from the host of a cult TV show into a mainstream performer. Stewart is host of The Daily Show, a satirical show aired on Comedy Central that parodies network and cable news shows. The show started in 1996, anchored by Stewart's predecessor Craig Kilborn, who left in 1999 to host The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn. The Daily Show draws in about 1.4 million viewers nightly. While not a groundbreaking number, sixty-five percent of those viewers are in the 18 to 49 age group, which is the group most coveted by television advertisers.

The Daily Show has become influental in politics and pop culture. Stewart has interviewed many guests from both sides of the political spectrum, including 2004 presidential candidate John Kerry, Bill O'Reilly, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, and has asked for President George W. Bush to come on the show, going so far as publish an invitation in a full page newspaper ad during the 2004 Republican National Convention.

Stewart has interviewed celebrities like Bruce Willis, Ice Cube, The Rock, and recently interviewed the band The White Stripes who then did a live studio performance.

Although The Daily Show is steeped in satire, its emphasis on political coverage and current events has led to many of its younger viewers regard it as their daily news source, especially during the 2004 presidential election. Stewart was even considered as a possible replacement for Dan Rather on the CBS Evening News by CBS executive Leslie Moonves, which owned Comedy Central before splitting into two companies just a few days ago.

Although a comedian, Stewart can be serious at times. Notable was his appearance on the CNN show Crossfire in which he got into a debate with host Tucker Carlson over the state of television journalism. He accused Crossfire of polarizing politics and that it was hurting America, saying "It's not so much that it's bad, as it's hurting America [...] Stop, stop, stop, stop hurting America." He referred to Carlson and co-host Paul Begala as "partisan hacks", and said that Carlson was "as big a dick on [his] show as [he is] on any show". Many believe this highly publicized criticizm led to the cancellation of Crossfire.

The Daily Show has won seven Emmys and a Peabody Award for their coverage of the 2000 presidential election.

The Academy Awards ceremony will be held on ABC this year on March 5th.

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