I’ve kept most of my Oscar commentary elsewhere, but Mark Evanier said something in his semi-running commentary Sunday night that really rather sums up my thoughts:
I wrote a little while ago that I liked that Jon Stewart wasn’t acting like the evening was all about him. I haven’t changed my mind about that but I also have what may seem like an opposing thought. The problem with the guy as Oscar Host is that he isn’t a big star, at least in this context, and doesn’t act like one. His low-key style is refreshing in some ways but it diminishes the event in others. Hosts like Bob Hope, Johnny Carson and Steve Martin brought an air of importance to their intros. Stewart’s just a guy out there being funny and keeping it moving during his limited moments on stage. I think it’s a good job but it’s a quiet good job, the kind that probably won’t be appreciated by a lot of people.
I think this really rather hits the nail on the head on just what it is I like about Stewart: he’s funny, but he’s quiet. his humour isn’t over the top, it’s not Ben Stiller walking around in a green suit gag sort of thing, but more…serene.
I’m actually known for not liking the majority of popular commedians or late night television hosts. I even avoided the spinoff of The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, for a long time, just knowing that I dislike comedy as a whole (and yes, my bad – Colbert has that same sort of quietness and almost serene amusement). I don’t like gag comedy – watching someone have his chest hair ripped off is more wince-worthy than hilarious. I don’t like comedy based on physical humour, fucking apple pies and pratfalls. I prefer watching Gene Kelly get laughs than Will Farrell. So for a long time, I’ve wondered what sets The Daily Show (and now The Colbert Report) aside, especially since so many of the writers cut their teeth on shows that I as a whole don’t like. The thing I keep coming back to is the quietness, the reliance on the audience to get the joke rather than needing it spelled out, and the… not smugness, but amusement that the host gets when the joke does sail over some people’s heads. It’s almost self-depricating to the host, with a twist of “aren’t you an idiot for not getting it?” As a whole, I have a thing about serene people – I’m strongly drawn to anyone who projects that sort of aura.
I don’t know – maybe charges of the shows pandering to intellectual elitism are correct, and I’m just an intellectual elite. But I stay up past when I should because the shows make me laugh, hard, often for a near hour straight. And as everyone knows, laughter is good for the soul.