This host pulls punch lines

Stewart drops out of Paley event

With writers and producers still at loggerheads, Jon Stewart has pulled out of an entertainment gala — only it's not the Oscars.

The comedian has withdrawn from a hosting gig at a Paley Center fundraiser honoring Viacom chieftain Sumner Redstone under circumstances that might be related to the 3-month-old labor stoppage.

The invite for the black-tie event Thursday at the New York Waldorf-Astoria, sent out several weeks ago, proclaims the Redstone event and announced Stewart, who hosts a show owned by Viacom's Comedy Central, as the evening's emcee.

But as of Tuesday, organizers said that Stewart wouldn't host, with Charlie Rose filling in as emcee.

Reps for Viacom and the Paley Center spokesperson on Tuesday both chalked up the decision to Stewart's added workload hosting "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart" without his stable of writers, who remain on strike.

But sources said that with the threat of the WGA picketing the Paley Center event, Stewart decided it best to stay home.

For its part, the WGA East acknowledged that it had at one point contemplated picketing or leafleting the event in lieu of a picket line. But the organization has since dropped those plans, perhaps because Stewart's absence already conveyed the message they intended to deliver.

The event is to be attended by a host of heavy-hitters, including top execs from nearly every major conglomerate, ranging from Peter Chernin to Jeff Zucker to Robert Iger, as well as Leslie Moonves and Philippe Dauman, who run the two companies in which Redstone is a majority shareholder.

The WGA has not picketed nontelevised events, but observers said the ability to picket a Redstone event — or, for that matter, to threaten a picket and stop WGA member Stewart from attending — might have been a tempting target.

Stewart's bigger gala appearance, at the Feb. 24 Academy Awards, remains in question, with the Academy's Sid Ganis on Monday urging the show to go on as planned.