Jon Stewart mixes it up in his monologue

Times Staff Writer

Jon Stewart led with the writers strike, moved to light jabs at the nominees and then finished with presidential politics.

For the Oscar host, the opening monologue is a kind of State of the Union address -- through humor he conveys what the year in movies has been about while risking a few zingers at political leaders and celebrities.

Stewart, hosting for the second time (his first go-round was 2006), did a monologue that came in at approximately 18 jokes (not including asides). Five were about the presidential race, three were about the recently ended writers strike and one was Iraq war-related. The others were devoted to the nominations or nominees.

Stewart took a dig at Democratic presidential rivals Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. John McCain, who has been a guest on Stewart's "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart" 11 times, was mentioned only by implication.

That joke was: "Oscar is 80 this year. Which makes him now automatically the front-runner for the Republican nomination."

His Clinton joke was more pointed, hooked to Julie Christie's lead actress nomination for "Away From Her," which Stewart called "a moving story of a woman who forgets her own husband. Hillary Clinton called it the feel-good movie of the year."

Stewart led the monologue with settled-writers-strike jokes, calling the evening "makeup sex" after 3 1/2 months of recrimination and stalemate between the studios and the scribes.

Noting that the prospect of having to cancel the award ceremony was said to have sped up a settlement, Stewart deadpanned: "So if we could, before we spend the next four to five hours giving each other golden statues, let's take a moment to congratulate ourselves."

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