Pop Culture

And the Oscar job goes to ... Jon Stewart

First music. Now movies.

Jon Stewart, who worked the Grammys in 2001 and 2002, was tapped Thursday to host the 2006 Oscars.

“As a performer, I’m truly honored to be hosting the show,” Stewart said, then joked: “Although, as an avid watcher of the Oscars, I can’t help but be a little disappointed with the choice. It appears to be another sad attempt to smoke out Billy Crystal.”

The 43-year-old star of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” follows a long line of standup comedians who have hosted the Oscars. Over the years, Bob Hope, Johnny Carson, Whoopi Goldberg and Crystal have held down the podium.

“I love a comic who can deal with the unexpected and has the ability to run the room,” said Gil Cates, the producer of this year’s Academy Awards, airing March 5 on ABC. “The speed of mind and fearlessness of a comic really adds to the show.”

Speculation swirled about a replacement for last year’s host, Chris Rock, who said he would not be coming back. Frequently mentioned candidates included Goldberg, Steve Martin and late-night hosts Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien.

Rock drew younger viewers, but his barbs skewering Jude Law, Tobey Maguire and others alienated some academy members. Rock is currently producing and narrating “Everybody Hates Chris,” a UPN sitcom based on his life.

While Rock has been known to offend some people, Stewart also can stir the pot with his own caustic brand of humor. Stewart and his team of comedy writers often poke fun at mainstream politics and current events.

His efforts have obviously struck a chord. “The Daily Show” has earned seven Emmys and a Peabody award, while Stewart has won the 2005 Thurber Prize for American Humor for his book, “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Presents America (The Book): A Citizen’s Guide to Democracy Inaction.”

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Cates said he wasn’t worried about hiring Rock and doesn’t believe that Stewart will have any problems.

“Jon knows the difference of being irreverent without being impolite,” Cates said. “This is not a political show. I think he understands that.”

One requirement to be the show’s host is an appreciation for movies, Cates said. Although Stewart is mostly known for his TV show, he has appeared in several movies, including “The Faculty,” “Death to Smoochy” and “Big Daddy.”

“He’s a very, very popular entertainer with a mind that is quick, and you need that on a show like this,” said Sid Ganis, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

However, Stewart didn’t enjoy his time spent on the other side of the red carpet. He once worked as a celebrity reporter covering the Oscars and said being cooped up with other journalists was like being in a zoo. In an interview with The Associated Press in 2000, he called the job “the grandaddy of humiliation.”

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