In the bowels of the Kodak Theater, one floor below the auditorium where the elaborate set for the Academy Awards telecast on Sunday was already in place, Jon Stewart, unshaved and wearing Army boots, was sitting in his modest dressing room, just back from the latest planning session with his writing team.
Somehow, despite the fact that he had all of eight days to prepare for his role this Sunday as host of the Super Bowl of entertainment shows, he was, by his own words and all visual evidence, utterly relaxed. Maybe it was because finally, after 100 days of forced separation, he could talk to his writers again.
"This is an exercise in battle stations," Mr. Stewart said, perhaps explaining the Army boots. "In some ways it allows your mind to be in that fight-or-flight mode the whole time: 'O.K., we're mice being chased by a cat. Let's just do it.' "