We were all shocked last year when it was announced Chris Rock was hosting the Oscars. But Rock was, after all, a show-biz vet who'd already hosted plenty of bullshit awards shows without causing major offense—and his Oscar gig was just more of the same. Sure, he pissed off Sean Penn, but c'mon; Sean Penn was born pissed off.
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Jon Stewart seems even less suited to host the Oscars than Rock. Since he took over The Daily Showin 1999, Stewart's made the unlikely transformation from a poor man's Jay Mohr to the Uncontested Political Satirist of Our Times. Some of us were only able to survive the 2004 election thanks to Stewart's nightly commentary. While most of the media gave Bush a free pass, carefully excising his daily fuckups and reporting his obvious lies as if they were the Gospel, Stewart was there offering not just spot-on gags but also actual news we weren't getting elsewhere: the unedited footage revealing Bush and his boys in all their epic rottenness.
But Stewart, like Rock, can be a savage satirist one moment and a chickenshit phony the next. While Rock will never say a good word about somebody he truly detests, Stewart's two-facedness is more troubling. He'll rightly attack Rick Santorum when the senator is safely out of earshot, but then he'll have Santorum on the show and tell him, as he infamously did, "I don't think you're a bad dude." Stewart plainly detests Bush, yet he's constantly ascribing virtues to the president that simply aren't there. (Stewart has often said he thinks W. is condescending to America by talking like an idiot, when it's blindingly clear our commander-in-chief just don't talk so good.) Stewart persists in the outdated notion that the Right and Left are equally deserving of ridicule, wasting airtime razzing Hillary Clinton even when—as he recently pointed out—today's Democrats are the Ewoks to the Republicans' galactic empire. Worst, Stewart constantly rejects the notion that anybody should take him seriously as a journalist; he acts like it's a fluke when a major political player turns up on his show, as if his true calling is to trade quips with Jamie Foxx while plugging Stealth.
Stewart will probably do an adequate job hosting the Oscars, just as he did an adequate job hosting the Grammys years ago, and guesting on The Nanny. Stewart is willing and able to sink to whatever mediocrity is asked of him. But his mix of fawning and outrage is becoming increasingly schizophrenic, and hopefully Stewart will soon give up trying to please everybody and transform into the bitter old man he's destined to become. Is it too much to wish that it could happen this Sunday night? Because it would be a rare treat to finally hear Stewart go all America: The Book on Hollywood's ass.
JON STEWART HOSTS THE 78TH ANNUAL ACADEMY AWARDS. SUN., 5 P.M., ON KABC CHANNEL 7.