Daily Show's Drunkalogue

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Note to Jon Stewart: Life threatening diseases aren't funny. Mr. Stewart, whom I adore 99.9% of the time, made an embarrassing spectacle worse, when he interviewed Peter O'Toole. It was unclear whether the living legend was in the grip of senility or drink when he precariously perched his old bones in the guest seat of the Daily Show, to promote his new film "Venus." Either way it was sad and painful to watch. I don't know whether Mr. Stewart was at a total loss for words facing one of the greatest actors of all time, but he couldn't have chosen a worse focal point -- one quip after another about the famous actor's famous love of spirits.

Mr. O'Toole seemed all too happy to relive his reckless escapades with the fawning Stewart. In AA they call such anecdotes "drunkalogues." Yes, even his well-rehearsed and charming tale of tipping a white wine with the late, great Katherine Hepburn.

But Mr. O'Toole's alcoholism is not funny so much as it is tragic. In its throes he nearly tanked his acting career, and lost a chunk of his stomach and intestines. Though he famously gave up alcohol in 1975, he has appeared visably drunk on many occasions since. To all appearances, his performance on the Daily Show falls into that category. It is a cunning, baffling, and powerful disease, after all. But funny? Not so much.