- The Washington Times - Monday, March 1, 2004

The Jon Stewart who strolled onto the DAR Constitution Hall stage Friday didn’t have the nonpartisan shackles of his Comedy Central “news” desk to confine him.

The star of the eponymous “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart” staked out progressive positions on homosexual “marriage,” war, FCC-style censorship and sexuality.

Working bluer than on television, Mr. Stewart trotted out a stream of shrewd cultural ironies.

He expects his audiences to be up on current events, hardly a problem for an Inside the Beltway crowd weaned on his political humor. Besides, if we believe recent studies on television watching, a good chunk of the audience probably gets the bulk of its news from Mr. Stewart’s broadcasts.

He dove into the headlines du jour, beating the news surrounding “The Passion of the Christ” like a child swinging at a pinata. We’re actually borrowing his pinata metaphor, although the way he referred to the colorful candy dispenser can’t be repeated here.

“About this Jesus thing … I’m so sorry,” the Jewish comic cried.

Mr. Stewart also sprinkled in a few local winks, wondering aloud about the massive stage before him — “It’s not like Washington, D.C., to be wasteful” — and mocking our geography: “You have four Ninth Streets, and they don’t connect.” Mostly, he toyed with any hot-button issue he could find, from politics to religion and freedom of speech.

Concerning the “gay agenda,” he said he sees it as surprisingly … conservative in nature.

“As far as I can see, [homosexuals say] we want to get married, we’d like to be in the Army … and the Boy Scouts would be nice,” he said.

Mr. Stewart is only an occasional actor (“Playing by Heart,” “Big Daddy”), but he brings first-rate mimicry skills to his performances. With that and his ingrained comic timing, the comedian can sell a joke like few of his peers.

Yet his sense of cultural timing betrayed him at times. Routines built upon the nation’s color-coded warning system for terrorism and fighting bio-terror with duct tape seemed alarmingly stale for a comic who feasts on news of the past week, if not the past 24 hours.

The self-effacing comic also used his own heritage for much of the humor and felt the pain of other minority groups, particularly blacks.

“They gave us jazz, and we turned it into Kenny G. That’s gotta bother them,” he said.

Catholics fared little better.

“The pope is the most loved man who no one agrees with,” he said, citing how we gleefully ignore the pontiff’s commands regarding premarital sex.

When Mr. Stewart’s on a roll, ideology means nothing. But wouldn’t it be grand to hear him train his sardonic wit on human rights activists who ignored the horror of the Saddam Hussein regime? The least he could do would be to tee off on Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. John F. Kerry, as ripe a target as a comic could find.

Mr. Stewart brought up Mr. Kerry’s name midact but quickly dropped it. Is Dennis Miller due in the District anytime soon?

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