stage dive

As Theater Critic, Jon Stewart Is the New Glenn Beck

Glenn Beck’s dominance as cable’s foremost concierge/show picker has been called into question: Jon Stewart, welcoming guests Trey Parker and Matt Stone last Thursday, delivered an endorsement of The Book of Mormon so full-throated that it approached the Lovelace-ian: Among other plaudits, he praised one song — he didn’t say which — as timeless enough to outlast humanity itself, predicting aliens would bop to it approvingly when they drop by a few epochs from now to sort through the ashes of our civilization. (Watch the interview below.)

It’s encouraging to hear a voice as credible, skeptical, and discriminating as Stewart’s praising any Broadway venture. He’s not quite as flagrant a theater nerd as his colleague Stephen Colbert, so his stamp of approval points to Mormon’s potential for crossover to nontraditional Broadway audiences. But between his endorsement and Beck’s, I find myself wondering if professional commercial theater, as it tries to grow its fan base, needs to start courting the new tastemakers more aggressively. For most prospective theatergoers still ineligible for Medicare, Stewart’s plug counts for a whole hell of a lot more than any print critic. (By the way: We lot won’t be allowed to park our horse and buggies outside of Mormon until press previews commence next week. Stewart, on the other hand, needn’t respect embargoes … especially when he’s delivering a rave.) Pimping a musical to daytime talkers and morning programs is nothing new, but for the new wave of putatively youth-attuned shows — American Idiot, Spider-Man, Book of Mormon — getting past the twin Mordor gates of late-cable punditry and viral irony might be the true test of cultural relevance.

Which brings us to our Monday time waster: Match the upcoming show with the endorsement it most desperately needs.

1. Priscilla, Queen of the Desert                       
2. Sister Act                       
3. How to Succeed in Business              
4. Catch Me if You Can           
5. Wonderland                  
6. Zach Braff’s All New People    
7. Arcadia
8. Shakespeare’s Double Falsehood

A. Jimmy Kimmel
B. Daniel Tosh
C. Marc Marron
D. Conan O’Brien
E. Rachel Maddow
F. 4chan
G. Opie and Anthony
H. Jimmy Fallon

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As Theater Critic, Jon Stewart Is the New Glenn Beck