A Dislocated Hipster: Jon Stewart? The Oscars?

RICHARD HUFF
New York Daily News via Daily Collegian
University of Massachusetts, Am

Tinseltown insiders will be buzzing about who was, or was not, nominated for an Academy Award.

Me, I’ll still wondering why Jon Stewart was selected to host the Oscarcast March 5 on ABC in the first place.

Try as I might – and trust me, I’ve tried — I just don’t get Stewart. I don’t think he’s all that funny and he’s vastly overrated.

I realize he’s gotten loads of critical acclaim. And I understand my lack of appreciation for Stewart & Co. is sacrilege in TV circles.

That’s because many of my colleagues fawn over Stewart. A year ago, the Television Critics Association awarded his Comedy Central faux-news program, “The Daily Show,” the best newscast.

Yet watching “The Daily Show” for me is like being on the outside of an inside joke. The audience cheers wildly and laughs like hyenas at every Stewart line.

It’s during these moments, when I’m missing Stewart’s appeal, that I realize I’m not alone. A lot of people are feeling the same way.

Take a look at the Nielsen figures for the show, and the numbers are startling. This supposedly terrific program, with its high hipness factor — people actually say they get their only news from “The Daily Show” — is averaging 1.3 million viewers in January, most of them men between the ages of 18 and 49. During November, the political high season in which Stewart and his cohorts supposedly thrive, the show averaged 1.45 million viewers.

For comparison, Nielsen estimates there are 218 million people over the age of 18 in the nation’s 112 million homes with televisions.

That’s a lot of people not getting Stewart’s comedy.

Now, before the legions of Stewartites start bellyaching that the show airs on Comedy Central, so the numbers are going to be smaller, stop. Comedy Central is in 88 million homes, so it’s well-distributed.

What’s more, Stewart gets amazing press for his work — a level far outstripping his reach — so even if people aren’t watching, they’ve heard about him.

But that’s the point.

Stewart’s appeal — at least from what’s on Comedy Central — is limited at best. He’s playing to a small crowd, just like many of the other critically acclaimed phenoms dotting the pop-culture landscape.

There’s the rub.

Stewart is being given the reins of the biggest entertainment program in history – the Academy Awards. An estimated 42.1 million people watched the show last year. It’s a show that’s often referred to as the Super Bowl for women, a group that watches Stewart in far lower numbers than men do.

“One of the benefits of having a person who is a standup comic,” said longtime Oscar producer Gil Cates told the New York Daily News when the deal was announced, “is they can deal with the unexpected, with the surprising.

“When you think of the Oscars, most of the things you remember were not prepared by the producer.”

It would help, though, if they started with someone funny, who maybe spoke to the masses than to a small group of people pretending to be in on the joke.