Despite the fact that Stewart (like Rock and Letterman) did an admirable job, the audience didn't seem to like him.
Coming back from one break, Stewart pretended to be in mid-sentence. "And that is why I think Scientology is right, not just for this city, but for the country," he said, clearly mocking some stars' commitment to Scientology. Hollywood sat silent.
An admitted and unashamed progressive himself, Stewart later made fun of the film industry's perceived liberalness, telling viewers the Oscars are a chance to "see all your favorite stars without having to donate any money to the Democratic party." Our favorite stars barely chuckled.
Instructing the audience to not pirate films, Stewart referred to the rich and lavishly dressed audience and said, "These are the people you're stealing from." Those people did not find his remark funny.
As with many of Stewart's lines, the laughter for these jokes was mostly distant, perhaps coming from the high balconies, far away from the celebrities. When we saw the faces of the stars, they were blank, or awkwardly smiling, perhaps pretending to chuckle.
A few got it: the cameras kept returning to Jamie Foxx, probably because he was laughing along with viewers. By comparison, Joaquin Phoenix looked dreadfully constipated every time a camera found his face, completely unmoved.
Unfortunately, the celebrities seemed to have gotten the biggest kick out of Meryl Strepp and Lily Tomlin's dull and meandering introduction speech to Robert Altman:
But the audience laughed most uproariously as Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin introduced honorary Oscar recipient Robert Altman. They pretended to go off-script, offering meandering dialogue in an Altman-style tribute/joke. The theater's audiences of celebrities laughed almost too hard, as if to prove that, finally, there was some intelligent, sophisticated humor for them to appreciate.
And here's the article writer's thoughts on why Stewart didn't sit well with the Hollywood set:
Exposing hypocrisy while being self-depreciating is what Stewart does best; in fact, it's basically all he does. Those who believe "The Daily Show" is actually "fake news" don't understand either satire or the exceptionally smart, informative humor that the show invokes on a daily basis. Stewart and "The Daily Show's" team emphasize and demonstrate the importance and gravity of the day's news by making fun of it.
But that sort of contradictory, somewhat nuanced humor didn't work well for the Oscars' audience. The theater audience's lack of laughter was judgmental and was at odds with viewers who were laughing because this was the funny Jon Stewart we know from cable.
...The real way that Hollywood is out of touch has to do with its inability to laugh at itself, and the Academy Awards are the best example. Films are important, whether they are everlasting works of art or audience-pleasing thrillers. As Jon Stewart demonstrates every Monday through Thursday evening, appreciating something's consequence and weight while laughing at it is possible, just maybe not for an audience that is too caught up in its biggest moment.