When Jon Stewart replaced Craig Kilborn on "The Daily Show" in 1999, the show was still a "startup cable show on a cheap set in a tiny studio," says The Washington Post's Dan Zak. The show, which debuted in 1996, has always given a comedic take on the day's news and politics, but under Stewart it hit a different level. Over the next decade, Stewart rose up to become "the most influential man" of the year, got to interview a sitting president, and will host a rally in Washington, D,C, this weekend just days before the midterm elections. With Stewart's stock sky high this week, let's look back at what critics said about him when he took over the nightly seat nearly a dozen years ago:
He had some growing pains: Stewart's debut on January 11, 1999, had "some awkward moments" and some of his lines fell "flat," said David Bianculli in the New York Daily News. But he did show promise. "The writing, especially when accompanying real-life news footage, was sharp as ever, with Stewart deftly delivering some very funny lines." He'll likely "adjust to his new surroundings and role" in a matter of time.
Kilborn had his followers: "Jon Stewart is a much shorter and more nervous version of Craig Kilborn, which is to say he's hardly Craig Kilborn at all," said Paul Brownfield in the L.A. Times weeks before Stewart's debut. Kilborn, with "his frat-boy good looks and self-parodying smirk," was an "appropriately arrogant comedy pitchman for the show." But Stewart, I fear, "doesn't have the same mean bones in his body." Alas, Stewart is the right man to takeover "because he's practically made a career out of almost hosting other people's talk shows."
Stewart made the show his: In an interview, Stewart said "the nature of comedy and the goal of the show is to treat everyone equally - within reason," reported Tim Goodman in the San Francisco Chronicle. He isn't going to back down from a joke just because it's not politically correct or appropriate to say. So far, "he's being lauded for his comic talents, whereas some people thought Kilborn was nothing more than smarmy." The show changed with the host switch, but "it's still going to be funny and dangerous as always."