Jon Stewart led with the writers strike, moved to light jabs at the nominees and then finished with presidential politics.
For the Oscar host, the opening monologue is a kind of State of the Union address -- through humor he conveys what the year in movies has been about while risking a few zingers at political leaders and celebrities.
Stewart, hosting for the second time (his first go-round was 2006), did a monologue that came in at approximately 18 jokes (not including asides). Five were about the presidential race, three were about the recently ended writers strike and one was Iraq war-related. The others were devoted to the nominations or nominees.
Stewart took a dig at Democratic presidential rivals Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. John McCain, who has been a guest on Stewart's "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart" 11 times, was mentioned only by implication.
That joke was: "Oscar is 80 this year. Which makes him now automatically the front-runner for the Republican nomination."
His Clinton joke was more pointed, hooked to Julie Christie's lead actress nomination for "Away From Her," which Stewart called "a moving story of a woman who forgets her own husband. Hillary Clinton called it the feel-good movie of the year."
Stewart led the monologue with settled-writers-strike jokes, calling the evening "makeup sex" after 3 1/2 months of recrimination and stalemate between the studios and the scribes.
Noting that the prospect of having to cancel the award ceremony was said to have sped up a settlement, Stewart deadpanned: "So if we could, before we spend the next four to five hours giving each other golden statues, let's take a moment to congratulate ourselves."