The Oprah of the Beltway set

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Jon Stewart: The next Oprah?

It's official: Jon Stewart is funny, like in a New Yorker kind of way. His No. 1 best seller, "America, The Book," nabbed this year's Thurber Prize for American Humor, awarded at a ceremony at New York's The Algonquin-where Harpo Marx and Dorothy Parker sat at the Round Table.

While honors are lovely, and we're sure he was duly touched, it's all just icing on the cake for the host of Comedy Central's "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart." I Want Media declared him Media Person of the Year for 2004, and 2005 seems to be turning out OK. Ratings for the show are up 20%, and ad revenue is up 100% through August, to $41 million.

But with such power comes great responsibility. Crain's New York Business reports that publishers are tripping over themselves to get booked on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart," both left- and right-wingers, because it puts their authors in front of an audience that reads. Which means his show is shaping up to be the Oprah Book Club for the political press. That's rather impressive for a show that doesn't actually report news. It riffs off the real news, much as blogs do on the Web. But blogs have already proved they can move the political needle, so it's not surprising people are declaring the former stand up comic as a major force in the national conversation.

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