New York -- Comedy Central recruited comedian and MTV:
Music Television veteran Jon Stewart to take over Craig Kilborn's anchor slot at The
Daily Show, locking him in with a four-year deal estimated at more than $6 million.
At a press conference here last week, Comedy Central
officials said Stewart will start his new gig in January -- not only as host-anchor, but
also working as a writer and co-executive producer of The Daily Show.
Both Comedy Central president Doug Herzog and Eileen Katz,
senior vice president of programming, said Stewart was their first choice to replace
former ESPN anchor Kilborn, who is leaving to take over Tom Snyder's seat on
CBS' The LateLate Show with Tom Snyder.
"There was only one name that came up" when
Kilborn said he was leaving, according to Herzog. "We found the most talented free
agent in the market."
Added Stewart, "I always had my eye on [The Daily
Kilborn's contract with Comedy Central expires at the
end of August 1999. At the Television Critics Association summer tour in July, Herzog said
he might be willing to let Kilborn go early if the network had his replacement lined up,
which will likely happen -- although not before January.
Last week, Herzog said details about some kind of
settlement regarding Kilborn's contract were being hashed out.
"We are trying to work out things amicably with our
friends at CBS," Herzog said.
According to a CBS spokesman, "The conversations on
when Craig can start at CBS are ongoing."
Under questioning by reporters, Stewart conceded that it
was ironic that he was taking over the job of the man who is replacing Snyder. That's
because at one point, Stewart was considered the talent who would be taking over for
Snyder. Stewart had a deal with David Letterman's Worldwide Pants production company
to do a late-night show for CBS, but it never came to fruition.
"That is kind of funny," Stewart said.
"It's musical chairs. There are only five of these jobs available."
But Stewart said he was glad to be coming to a job where
"I don't feel like I'm pushing the host out."
Stewart made his name hosting an MTV talk show, which Katz
produced for MTV before coming to Comedy Central. Stewart -- who, at one point, hosted
Comedy Central's Short Attention Span Theater -- went on to do a syndicated
late-night talk show, which was canceled in 1995.
Asked why he was returning to cable, Stewart quipped,
"I value my anonymity."
The Daily Show's ratings are up about 75 percent
from last August, averaging a 0.7 compared with a 0.4, according to Nielsen Media Research
data supplied by Comedy Central. That's about 416,000 homes.
At some point, Comedy Central would like to extend The
Daily Show, which airs at 11 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, to five nights, Herzog
At one time, speculation was that Stewart, who played
himself on The Larry Sanders Show, would actually continue that Home Box Office
franchise by replacing the Sanders character as host of the fictional talk show when Garry
Shandling left the series. But that never happened.
It appears unlikely that Kilborn will be able to take his
"Five Questions" bit to CBS, according to Madeleine Smithberg, executive
producer of The Daily Show, since she described it as the intellectual property of
But Stewart said his preference was to do everything
possible to give The Daily Show his own stamp.
"Whenever you go into a new situation, you want to
give it your own identity," he said.
Stewart's January start at Comedy Central will be
fairly closely timed to the publication of his book, Naked Pictures of Famous People,
in September, and to the December release of two feature films that he is starring in: Dancing
Around Architecture, with Gillian Anderson and Sean Connery; and The Faculty.