What can you tell me about your Oscar-hosting gig? Paul Strouse, Pittsburgh, Pa.
Jon Stewart: This may be the most devastating, controversial, powerful, dangerous awards show ever.... No, I'm looking to have fun with it. If people are kind enough to spend four hours watching this damn show, I'm hoping to give them something other than a numb ass. And I won't sing; I want them to be happy.
Will you have The Daily Show's Rob Corddry or Ed Helms on hand to help on the red carpet with some impromptu interviews? Or Stephen Colbert unless he's gotten too big for the Oscars? Sheila Espineli, Boston, Mass.
Stewart: I would do that, but their riders are so cumbersome. That's the big difficulty. I don't have that many Airstream Winnebagos with fitness centers in them. And as you know, they don't get out of bed for less than that. Actually, I think they're just looking forward to a couple of days off and the ability to sit at home and watch me bomb. Though I may have them there as a sort of a Greek chorus, laughing and pointing.
After you were caught on camera at the Emmys with a "What the eff am I watching?" expression, why did you choose to host the Oscars? Will there be any musical-medley tributes? Kathryn Magura, Corvallis, Ore.
Stewart: The idea that I chose it is very kind of you to say. They were nice enough to ask. I think you're referring to how, at the beginning of the Emmys, I was having trouble picking up Earth, Wind & Fire and the Black-Eyed Peas' rhymes about something about the television season. So what you [interpreted as] my "What the eff" expression was just me trying to pick up the pentameter. That's all it was. I was just a man looking for an a-b-b-a rhyme scheme. Please know that the Oscars this year will be completely done in iambic pentameter or, if we choose to, haiku form. So you can look forward to that and to an audience of people with the same expression on their faces that I had at the Emmys. But as far as I am aware, there will not be any musical medleys. Munich, Syriana and Brokeback Mountain don't lend themselves to, from what I understand, musical choruses. And not a lot rhymes with Syriana.
I loved you in The Faculty...
Stewart: Whoa! "I loved you in The Faculty"?! I'm not sure I ever heard that in a sentence before.
... and now that you're hosting the Oscars, do you see yourself back in movies? Jennifer Ford, Glenmont, N.Y.
Stewart: From what I understand about the movie business and that's not much future movie success is somewhat predicated on past movie success. And the last time I looked up my box-office totals, I believe I actually owe them money.
You went to Princeton, and now you're hosting the Oscars. How do Mom and Dad feel? All that money spent on an Ivy League education so that you could play emcee to a bunch of drama-club geeks and frustrated jocks? Jonny Twist, Mobile, Ala.
Stewart: Well, the good news for my parents is that they think I'm a doctor. They haven't been told I work in TV. They would, however, be thrilled to think I went to Princeton. I didn't. I went to William and Mary, but I'm excited about this new résumé. Not only did I go to Princeton, but I was there on the Albert Einstein scholarship.
Would you please offer us some kind of guarantee about keeping the gay-cowboy jokes to a minimum? Say, three only? J.C. Adams, Hollywood, Calif.
Stewart: I will do what I can. But as you know, the government has installed a strict minimum of five gay-cowboy jokes on any presentation that goes on from now until next February. I will do my best, but I don't want to flout government regulations either. I'm not above the law. I may have to do so purely because of the regulations, which were apparently stuck into a highway bill that passed Congress a few months ago.
What are the chances of Kanye West, Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins presenting an award together? Donald Oskowski, Dracut, Mass.
Stewart: Oddly enough, and I don't know if people realize this, [those three] travel the country as a troubadour act. So as long as they're not playing a kaffeeklatsch or rathskeller at that time, I think they'd be more than available.
Which of the following Oscar-nominated movie characters would you have liked to play: the gay cowboy of Brokeback Mountain, the gay writer of Capote or the father turned mother of Transamerica? Amy Macht, West Palm Beach, Fla.
Stewart: I'm glad to see that the questioner believes I have brains and can play a whole host of gay and transsexual characters. You know, I don't have a preference. As long as I don't have to sing, everything should be fine.
Forget the Oscars. Since you're a Jersey boy, how would you solve the summer parking problems in shore towns? Kevin Jenkinsons, Point Pleasant, N.J.
Stewart: Excellent question. I think the rising floodwaters of the Atlantic will solve that problem for us. Give it five years and buy yourself a nice raft.
How do you plan to avoid an "Uma, Oprah... Oprah, Uma"-type debacle? Tom Straley, Glendale Heights, Ill.
Stewart: It's going to be very simple: We've only invited people named Bob or Michael to be in the audience. There are not going to be any lyrical or musical names in the whole place. And anybody who has one, I won't know anyway.
Do you plan to be as brutal to celebrities as Chris Rock was? And are you going to tell a lot of political jokes? Laura Kay, Towson, Md.
Stewart: As far as I know, nobody got hit in the face [last year]; Chris was just being funny. Maybe I just have the wrong association with the word "brutality." I tend to think of that more as a Pol Pot word than as a comedy word. Will there be jokes aimed in certain directions, including show business? Most likely. But "brutality" is not a word I often associate with monologues. Political jokes? It's very difficult to say, because I'll probably just improvise the whole monologue. I'll just try to tell the best jokes that we can think of, whether they're political or otherwise. But who knows? I might make a strident political comment and storm off stage and then have Marlon Brando's Native American princess do the rest of the program for me.
First, some advice. Please remain clothed at all times during the Oscars. That might have worked at the Grammys, but these are movies for god's sake!
Stewart: You know something, forget about the Oscars that's good advice in life for me. I'm not a pretty sight underneath. And I have no qualms about saying that. I appreciate your direct honesty and I will abide by that, as best I can.
And now my question: Will you be incorporating any aspect of The Daily Show into your hosting duties? Diane Blumenthal, Silver Spring, Md.
Stewart: Well, I'll be there, so I would think that's somewhat a part of it. But I probably won't bring the desk. I definitely feel that I'm excited to host the Oscars and since I get to host my show every night, it would be nice for me to have that change of pace. And chances are we won't be sitting down with authors.
OK, Jon, we need to talk. Your boy Mo Rocca visited us here at good ol' Wash U. in St. Louis. Now when are you going to pay us a visit? Lori Turner, St. Louis, Mo.
Stewart: Typically Mo and I... it's like Loggins and Messina, you can't have the two of them in one town at the same time. [Otherwise] that town is radioactive for the next year or two. The same thing is true for us. If I go to a town, Rocca's not allowed to come. This country ain't big enough for the two of us, me and Rocca. Until we get together for our big Central Park Reunion Concert. Then, of course, everything else is water under the bridge.
Um, what or who do you think has played the biggest role in your success? Katie Ireland, New York, N.Y.
Stewart: First of all, it's so nice to see an "um" on a written question. You just never get to see that. In the same way that after a written question, you rarely see the sigh. It's always good to see the sigh in there. I would say the thing that influenced my career the most is probably a pathetic desire for attention.
Oscars aside, I want to know if you have any interest in replacing Conan O'Brien as host of The Late Show when he takes over The Tonight Show in 2009. Eugene Golant, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Stewart: I don't understand why people don't think I'm happy and satisfied on a cable channel where you have to go past Spanish people playing soccer to get to it. Once you get to the single digits of channels, that's high altitude. It's hard to breathe up there; there's very little oxygen. I've always been one who lives his life with very little foresight. So if the question is "What are you doing in an hour?" I might have a better answer. I'm not real good at the long term.