Getting canceled could turn out to be the best thing that's ever happened to Jon Stewart. Since cheekily announcing that Paramount had pulled the plug on his chatfest during a David Letterman appearance, Stewart, 31, has listened to his phone ring off the hook. ''He's gotten calls about Miramax projects, a big-studio buddy comedy, a sci-fi project, and a whole bunch of sitcoms,'' says his agent, James Dixon. The host has also optioned the rights to cult novelist Jack Finney's 1977 book The Night People, about a restless suburbanite who livens up his mundane life with a series of stylish pranks, and plans to produce and star in the movie version.
Not that another late-night hosting gig is completely out of the picture. True, Paramount's suggestions to have Stewart's show follow ABC's Nightline or replace NBC's Late Night With Conan O'Brien were reportedly rebuffed by both networks. However, a source at Paramount says, ''NBC is very interested in Jon.'' NBC strongly denies reports that O'Brien's show is in jeopardy, and adds that his contract was renewed through mid-1996. ''We're happy,'' says Michael Zinberg, president of creative affairs at NBC Productions. ''Look at what the numbers are doing, look at Leno's numbers. Conan continues to grow. Nothing like that is happening.''
Stewart admits he'd be interested in a late-night network gig but has planned nothing beyond his show's June 23 finale. ''I just sort of need to rejuvenate right now so I can be careful to do something I really want to do,'' he says. ''Since Forrest Gump already took care of walking across America, which was my first idea, I'm going to have to do something else.''
Additional reporting by Chris Nashawaty