Who's Laughing Now?

By Virginia Rohan

It's time for Craig Kilborn to ask himself the question he poses in every "Daily Show."

What have we learned today?

Last Monday, Comedy Central suspended Kilborn for a week without pay over "inappropriate" (translation: incredibly sexist and lewd) comments he'd made about "Daily Show" head writer Lizz Winstead in January's Esquire.

The cable network says Winstead is so "upset," she has taken a leave of absence over the whole incident, and is incommunicado.

"Right now, we haven't really been talking to Lizz. We've tried to make contact," said Tony Fox, Comedy Central's senior vice president of corporate communications. "She's gone through a little bit of a cooling-off period."

Kilborn, the onetime anchor of ESPN's "SportsCenter," and Winstead, a feminist former stand-up comic, have long had creative differences. That infamous Esquire article claimed Kilborn has griped about the crudeness of some jokes on the show, and in fact, he did so when I interviewed him a year ago.

Frankly, I see his point, yet it's an ironic one, in light of Kilborn's own bizarro quotes: "There are a lot of bitches on the staff and hey, they're emotional people." He added that Winstead "does find me very attractive" and suggested she would perform oral sex on him if he wanted. (Talk about a "Moment for Us!")

In a statement, Kilborn apologized for his "regrettable" remarks. "Though my comments were said in jest and not intended for publication, I realize I have made a terrible mistake for which I am truly sorry," he said.

Comedy Central knew the Esquire piece was in the works, but felt "a little ambushed" by the result, says Fox, adding, "It was an unfortunate incident, and we're hoping we can get past it."

The timing was also unfortunate, as TV Guide, in this week's year-end issue, hails "The Daily Show" as television's "best light-night comedy."

Coincidentally, I was at a "Daily Show" taping the day Kilborn was suspended. Staffers were vague about his unexpected absence.

Standing in for Kilborn was Brian Unger -- one of several talented "Daily Show" correspondents who filled in last week. (Recently, he also narrated a very funny mockumentary about a supermodel, played by Winstead).

Unger did a great job, and he interacted with the studio audience more than I remember Kilborn doing during commercial breaks. ("The Craiger" mostly whipped out a hand mirror and repeatedly gazed at himself.)

Last Monday, Winstead was conspicuously absent from the set. The big question: What will happen when the show resumes taping, after a holiday break, on Jan. 5?

"We know Craig will be there, and we certainly hope she will be," Fox says.

This may sound holiday schmaltzy, but can't we all just get along, people? The sad fact is, everybody's replaceable. These folks should appreciate their great jobs, mutual talents, and realize that "Daily Show" viewers don't want to be exposed to the backbiting ways of "Larry Sanders."

So, what have we learned today, Craig? Hopefully, a little humility -- and discretion.

Copyright 1997 Bergen Record Corp.
Back to LIZZLAND Home