A correction has been added to this post, as indicated below.
Monday night will go down in history as the night that
"Let's all just acknowledge for a moment that this is weird," the guest host began. "This looks weird, it feels weird, it even sounds weird -- it sounds weird to me, and this is my actual voice." It did look a little weird, I suppose, but not for long. The cognitive dissonance was nothing a reasonably flexible adult mind could not handle.
Stewart is not himself the first host of “The Daily Show” (now called “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” even with Oliver in his chair). He replaced
Tall, dark and beaky (and at 36, Stewart's age when he took over the show) Oliver is a sensible choice as the summer replacement. As its so-called Senior British Correspondent, he is well-known to viewers of the “Daily Show,” on which he's worked before and behind the camera since 2006. But he's also hosted three seasons of “John Oliver's New York Stand-Up Show” (also for Comedy Central) and has had a recurring role on
He is a peculiar enough presence to be instantly memorable and contrasts usefully with Stewart, while maintaining his boss's capacity for excitement and umbrage. He also brings weight to the part. Being a fake news anchor, as represented more or less entirely by "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report," does require a kind of gravitas commensurate with being a real news anchor. Stewart and Colbert are trusted voices; in their irony, we feel, there is truth.
Discomfort as a comedy device was, nevertheless, built into Oliver's first night, with several preemptive admissions of inferiority. “I look forward to explaining to him exactly who... I am,” he said of fortuitously scheduled first-night guest
Of his impending temporary tenure, Oliver had earlier said, "It's still going to be everything that you love about 'The Daily Show,' just without the thing that you love the most about it." His comparative physical stiffness does remind us just how rambunctious a personality Stewart is, how active and exaggerated and musical and very comfortable he is in that chair – and how much he moves around in it.
At the same time, the writers are still the writers, the jokes are still good. And Oliver, who has proven himself funny in many venues, had no trouble selling them.
Also fortuitously, history handed him the gift of a fast news day, courtesy the ongoing story of the
That there are other “Daily Show” “correspondents” who might have filled Stewart’s chair was also a point the show made for you, giving several a chance to vent (under cover of “remote” reports on the NSA story). Jason Jones, whose 2009 report from
Rogen was there to promote his new movie, “This Is the End.” (“I can't let Jon Stewart be the only Jew in Hollywood directing movies,” he said, forgetting
"Thank you so much for turning up," said Oliver.
"It's nice they got a guy with the same name," Rogen replied. "So I don't have to learn a new one."
[For the record, June 11, 2013, 3:50 p.m.: A previous version of this post misstated the title of Seth Rogen's new film as "The End of the World." It is