One of the surest signs of showbiz popularity in today's word
is how often you're quoted in Entertainment Weekly. Take,
for example, EW's "Sound Bites" column. This
short sidebar features amusing quotes from the previous week's
TV shows. The hipper and funnier you are, the more often you'll
be quoted. David Letterman still makes it in on a weekly basis.
Conan O'Brien gets in regularly. Even Jay Leno occasionally manages
to get one of his jokes reprinted. "Sound Bites" is
a fine litmus test to see who's hot in Hollywood. Norm MacDonald,
former "Weekend Update" host for "Saturday Night
Live," got quoted all the time; but new "WU" host
Colin Quinn has only been in once or twice. Lately, I've noticed
that one tiny cable TV show has been making it into "Sound
Bites" with startling regularity. That show is Comedy Central's
"The Daily Show."
The news parody show recently celebrated its second anniversary
and consistently scores as one of CC's ratings high points. The
show features a cast of investigative reporters who go out and
hunt down real news stories--although, admittedly, the stories
are skewed toward "TDS'" particular brand of snarky
humor. A. Whitney Brown, Brian Ungar, Beth Littleford and Steven
Colbert form "The Daily Show's" crack reporting team.
Together they have broken stories on Florida's "Skunk Ape,"
investigated urine testing and exposed David Cassidy as an egotistical
bastard. Host Craig Kilborn, with his network newscaster hair
and rude sense of humor, has attracted plenty of attention to
the sophomore show. Kilborn's "Five Questions"--in which
a celebrity is grilled on a quintet of pointless trivia questions--
remains one of the show's most memorable segments.
Kilborn has attracted so much attention, in fact, that he was
recently named as the replacement for Tom Snyder on CBS' ratings-challenged
"Later." Kilborn's contract with Comedy Central runs
through August of 1999, but it looks like the station is willing
to let him go once they find a replacement. Naturally, they're
taking their own sweet time about it. Correspondent Brian Ungar
is considered the front-runner for the position.
I, for one, will be sad to see Kilborn go. I can't quite picture
him holding his tongue and conducting "straight" celebrity
interviews over on CBS. Kilborn's acid tongue already got him
in hot water over at Comedy Central when, in a magazine interview,
he made an off-color joke about "The Daily Show's" creator
Liz Winstead performing certain sexual acts. Winstead quit over
the incident, but the show weathered.
Execs at Comedy Central are at least showing enough intelligence
to keep the popular show going. They've already lost "Mystery
Science Theater 3000" to The Sci-Fi Channel and "Politically
Incorrect" to ABC. Here's hoping "The Daily Show"
survives the changes--I'd hate to have to start watching real
news shows again.