Stewart Signs On for More Funny

Thu Apr 24, 5:30 PM ET
By Lia Haberman

George Dubya or Jon Stewart--who'll stay in the public eye longer?

Depending on the outcome of next year's presidential election, the Daily Show host could find himself cracking wise at a whole new administration. Stewart has reupped his contract with Comedy Central to continue skewering the news through next year--his current contract expires at the end of this season.

"He's very important to us and it's a flagship show," the network's general manager Bill Hilary tells the Associated Press. "We're really pleased that we were able to do this."

Terms of the deal extending Stewart's contract were not disclosed.

But according to Hilary, the deal was actually inked last fall--news of his new deal only surfaced this week after Viacom bought the remaining 50 percent stake in Comedy Central from AOL Time Warner for about $1.23 billion to gain full control of the cable network. The two media conglomerates had previously shared ownership of Comedy Central.

Fueling Stewart's extension is the Daily Show's popularity with the advertiser-friendly 18-34 demo, who've traditionally tuned out of mom and pop's more serious-minded newscasts. Stewart's laffer has increased its audience by 10 percent in the past year.

"It's a unique show that has brought something different to comedy and news coverage," Hilary says.

Stewart, who inherited the Daily Show gig from Craig Kilborn in 1998, has been the go-to guy when the possibility of a late-night vacancy crops up at the broadcast networks.

But Hilary tells the AP he thinks the 40-year-old funnyman has more freedom at Comedy Central than he'd be able to find elsewhere and hopes the net can land Stewart for at least two more years.

Stewart's got a long history of making late-night viewers guffaw. He hosted the syndicated Jon Stewart Show, which originally launched on MTV in 1993, was a backup host on The Late Late Show with Tom Snyder and had a recurring role as Larry Sanders' scheming successor on HBO's The Larry Sanders Show. When not playing second fiddle, Stewart has stepped out onto the big screen, starring in Death to Smoochy, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back and Big Daddy, among others.