Suns Retorter: Daily Show's Stewart Has Suns Connection?

Unless you’re living under a rock, you probably know that Jon Stewart’s last night as the host of The Daily Show is this Thursday. What you probably don’t know, unless you’re a historian of obscure 1990s MTV shows like I am, is that there is a Suns tie to this king of late night.

From 1991-1997 Suns broadcaster Steve Albert had a job all of us children of that decade spent many nights dreaming of having when we got older. No, he didn’t work alongside Jenny McCarthy on Singled Out, that was’s Chris Hardwick, and he wasn’t Beavis or Butt-head, but he was the host of a major MTV property. For the better part of a decade, he was the voice of the network’s Rock N’ Jock a semi-annual event that pitted the “best” in music versus the “best” athletes in a game of either basketball or softball with some bizarre rules like a 10-point shot and double rims. It was an event that captured the essence of the 1990s better than Vanilla Ice with it’s neon graphics, loud celebrities, crazy rules and even crazier camera angles and edits.

“Jon Stewart? Whatever happened to him? I guess he peaked with MTV Rock N' Jock and just couldn't get a break after that! ”

— Steve Albert on Jon Stewart

While he had many color commentators over the years, in 1993 Albert called a game with a young man who would easily become his most famous partner ever (sorry Eddie Johnson). That’s right, that year Jon Stewart put on the headset and saddled up to the broadcast table to call the third annual B-Ball Jam, a game that also featured Suns Dan Majerle, Oliver Miller, the Gorilla, the Suns Dancers and future Suns Cliff Robinson and Jimmy Jackson. (Miller was the best of the bunch though as he wore a backwards hat and an earpiece where Stewart and Albert could talk to him at the free-throw line. Well, that is, if you don’t count GM Tiffani Amber Thiessen who was my game MVP. #KellyKapowski4ever)

The two only worked that one event together but it left an impression on Albert even 22 years later. Instead of sprinkling in a few quotes about the experience like they’re seasoning on a pizza, which wouldn’t do it justice, here is Steve’s full, unedited, recollection of the event:

Jon Stewart? Whatever happened to him? I guess he peaked with MTV Rock N' Jock and just couldn't get a break after that!

But seriously, I kind of remember that experience working with Jon in generalities. I guess I could go back and look at the tapes but they're the old Jurassic Park VHS type and on top of that, they're packed away in a box in some storage closet gathering dust. I know, you're saying: well why aren't they in The Smithsonian where they belong? I'll look into that.

Jon was an up-and-coming comedian at the time but one of those guys who had the "it" factor. You knew he was destined for something special. But of greater significance to me was his humility and the way he carried himself. He was a true sports fan, very respectful of yours truly as a play-by-play announcer and seemed genuinely thrilled to be my color commentator. For a situation that might have been somewhat foreign to him, he handled it like a pro, like he'd been doing it for years...knowing exactly when I was supposed to speak as well as when it was his turn to speak. And when he spoke, he was usually witty and funny.

We both knew our roles. I stuck to the play-by-play, with a hint of sarcasm. He listened well and reacted to things I said with a lot of enthusiasm and, of course, a lot of humor. In all due respect, for a few hours, I sort of sensed perhaps how Dean Martin might have felt working with Jerry Lewis, Carl Reiner with Mel Brooks, Bud Abbott with Lou Costello. It was an honor and a privilege and an incredible learning experience sparring verbally with one of the great comedic minds of our time.

So when you’re watching or hearing about Jon Stewart’s final episode of The Daily Show, remember two things. One, despite what it may seem, MTV has actually given something worthwhile to culture and two, there is a Suns connection to this most talked about event. Oh, and three, I remember way too much about things that happened on that network during my youth.


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