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About (Late) Last Night: Jon Stewart and Ricky Gervais talk Stephen Hawking, slag Jay Leno

December 15, 2010 |  7:08 am
The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Ricky Gervais
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The mutual respect between Ricky Gervais and Jon Stewart is obvious. They put their affections on display for everyone to see, laughing heartily at each other's jokes and swapping compliments. It looks like puppy love. 

But it's safe to say they probably don't feel the same way about their comedic contemporary Jay Leno. It's worth wondering whether Leno ever gets tired of being a punchline to so many jokes about jokes, or if he finds solace in decades of success, denied entry to the cool-kids club aside. Still, when Stewart and Gervais got together Tuesday night on "The Daily Show," it was all jovial until Stewart dropped an unexpected Leno barb. 

The flash of meanness came out of nowhere because the mood had been so warm. "You ply them with drugs, you promise them sexual favors," said Gervais, explaining why he received such a spirited welcome from the "Daily Show" crowd. Then came the flattery. Gervais went so far as to say he was impressed with Stewart's use of the word "vertebrae" instead of "backbone" or "spine." Stewart thought he was kidding.

"This is the cleverest show ever," insisted Gervais. "Until Stephen Hawking gets his own chat show, this is the cleverest show ever. And that's why I love you." Both erupted in a fit of giggles, musing on a talk show hosted by Hawking, the famed physicist. Riffing on this imaginary world in which Hawking plays host, neither man could stop laughing.

Stewart collected himself and attempted to explain his enthusiastic laughter, saying he was just imagining how Jay Leno might disrupt Hawking's hypothetical show. (Stewart used more colorful language.) Gervais doubled over the desk and grimaced. Somewhere, Conan O'Brien flashed a grin.

-- Joe Coscarelli