Joel Stein

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Joel Stein
Stein at Beverly Hills High School for "Career Day", May 16, 2006
Stein at Beverly Hills High School for "Career Day", May 16, 2006
Born (1971-07-23) July 23, 1971 (age 48)
Edison, New Jersey
EducationStanford University
SpouseCassandra Barry (March 2002–present)

Joel Stein (born July 23, 1971) is an American journalist who wrote for the Los Angeles Times. He wrote a column and occasional articles for Time for 19 years until 2017.[2]

Early life[edit]

Stein grew up in Edison, New Jersey, the son of a salesman.[3] He is Jewish.[4] Stein attended J.P. Stevens High School, where he was a writer and entertainment editor for Hawkeye, the student newspaper. He majored in English at Stanford University and wrote a weekly column for the school's student newspaper, The Stanford Daily. He graduated in 1993 with a BA and an MA and moved to New York City, and then to Los Angeles in 2005.


Stein's career began as a writer and researcher for Martha Stewart Living. He worked a year for Stewart and later quipped that she had fired him twice in the same day. Stein did fact-checking at various publications before becoming a sports editor and columnist for Time Out New York, where he stayed for two years. While working at Time Out New York, he was a contestant on MTV's short-lived game show Idiot Savants. Stein joined Time in August 1997 and his last column for the magazine appeared on November 16, 2017. In signing off, he began, "Since my first column, 19 years ago, readers and co-workers have clamored to have me fired." He concluded, "There are times when society needs a punk who doesn’t care. There are far fewer times when society needs a 46-year-old punk who doesn’t care. I’ve always been guilty of hanging on too long out of fear of graduating college, ending relationships and transitioning from democracy to authoritarianism. I look forward to a future columnist who makes me laugh about that."[2]

Stein sometimes appears as a commentator on television programs such as I Love the '80s. He also co-produced three TV pilots: an animated series for VH1 and two for ABC. The animated show, titled Hey Joel, aired in Canada and later in South Africa, while the other two were never picked up. He was a writer and producer for the sitcom Crumbs.

Stein taught a class on humor writing at Princeton University before moving to Los Angeles in early 2005 to write for the Los Angeles Times. In 2012, he published a book, Man Made: A Stupid Quest for Masculinity (ISBN 978-0446573122).[5]

Controversial columns[edit]

On January 24, 2006, the Los Angeles Times published a column by Stein under the headline "Warriors and Wusses" in which he wrote that it is a cop-out to oppose a war and yet claim to support the soldiers fighting it. "I don't support our troops. ... When you volunteer for the U.S. military, you pretty much know you're not going to be fending off invasions from Mexico and Canada. So you're willingly signing up to be a fighting tool of American imperialism ...". He prefaced his argument by stating that he does not support the troops in Iraq despite supporting the troops being "a position that even Calvin is unwilling to urinate on."[6] Stein states he did three interviews about the column on the Hugh Hewitt radio show, with Tony Snow, and with a "liberal" in Oregon.[7] Mark Steyn wrote in a New York Sun opinion piece that Stein was to be congratulated for the consistency of his position: "Stein is a hawkish chicken, disdaining the weasel formulation too many anti-war folks take refuge in."[8] Warrant Officer Michael D. Fay wrote in The New York Times that Stein's comments made him feel "sad because they're so mistaken, sad because their voices are granted a modicum of credence in the public forum, and sad because they leave me feeling a little less at home."[9]

In 2008, Stein, being Jewish himself, wrote an article for the Los Angeles Times titled "Who runs Hollywood? C'mon". It attempted to highlight and yet argue against the importance of supposed Jewish control over Hollywood.[10][11] It has since been picked up by Lew Rockwell,[12] The Guardian newspaper,[13] the Jewish Journal,[14] and Professor Kevin B. MacDonald's Occidental Observer.[15]

In July 2010, Stein wrote a humor column for Time in which he expressed his discomfort at the impact immigration of Indians has had on his hometown of Edison, New Jersey. Time and Stein subsequently publicly apologized for the article. Stein's apology read: "I truly feel stomach-sick that I hurt so many people. I was trying to explain how, as someone who believes that immigration has enriched American life and my hometown in particular, I was shocked that I could feel a tiny bit uncomfortable with my changing town when I went to visit it. If we could understand that reaction, we'd be better equipped to debate people on the other side of the immigration issue."[16] United States Senator from New Jersey Bob Menendez submitted a letter to Time stating that the column "not only fell terribly flat but crossed the lines of offensiveness toward a particular community that has dealt with violent hate crimes in the past. Mr. Stein's mocking allusions to revered deities in the Hindu religion are particularly reprehensible."[17] Kal Penn, actor and former associate director in the White House Office of Public Engagement, also criticized the column for its portrayal of Indian Americans.[18]

Slate magazine writer Tom Scocca wrote of the column, "To a charitable reader, it's clear that the piece was trying not to be offensive. Stein's description of his childhood small-town idyll before the mass immigration is deliberately fake-sentimental, describing lowlife white kids stealing things and getting drunk. He was trying to make more fun of white people than he made of Indian people." Nonetheless, Scocca wrote, many Indian-Americans received the column "as an unironic anti-immigrant rant."[19]

In May 2013, Stein penned a Time cover story titled "The Me Me Me Generation" about the narcissistic and immature tendencies of millennials, but how they will also "save us all."[20] The New Republic,[21] The Atlantic,[22] New York,[23] and The Nation,[24] criticized Stein for selective use of evidence, for making sweeping generalizations about the behavior of millennials, and for repeating claims that prior generations had made about the young people in their times.


"I think he’s got the quirkiest sense of humor I see today," Walter Isaacson, the chairman and CEO of CNN News Group told Stanford Magazine. "Joel's honed that self-effacing self-indulgence to a great art form."[25]

"Stein can occasionally be funny," wrote Variety TV columnist Brian Lowry when Stein was writing his column for the Los Angeles Times. "But what really bothers me about his work is that none of the ideas seem to have the weight to sustain a column. They're more like random musings str-et-ch-ed to column length ... Somehow, every column keeps cycling back to Stein's favorite subject—Joel Stein, and finding employment opportunities for Joel Stein."[26]

Stein "is not funny," wrote Tom Scocca in Slate, arguing that his "lack of funniness is the key to understanding any phenomenon involving Joel Stein. He is a bad and incompetent humor writer, a writer who lacks the basic ability to control his tone and persona. I know no one under 50 who does not hate him because of this." Scocca concluded, "Joel Stein is a soft writer in a soft gig, dressed up in an older generation's clothing, with an expired comic license in his pocket."[19]

"In a magazine whose regular essayists include such deep thinkers as Charles Krauthammer, Margaret Carlson and Roger Rosenblatt, Stein's column is decidedly lightweight," wrote the Stanford alumni magazine in fall 2001. "No one would call Stein's commentary sophisticated." Stein acknowledged, "My whole goal is to use Time magazine to make important people do stupid things."[27]

In an online column for Vanity Fair, Juli Weiner characterized Stein as a "forgettable I Love the '80s participant and Time magazine humor (?) columnist." [28]

"I don't think I am a real journalist," Stein told Alex Kuczynski for The New York Times in 2000. "I feel like I am, well, whatever we all are now: I am a celebrity journalist." Kuczynski wrote that Stein's columns were marked by "bawdy humor, tasteless one-liners and something that can best be described as a sort of polished vulgarity." [29]

Depictions in popular culture[edit]

In 2000, The Onion spoofed Stein's persona in a satire whose headline was "Cocktail-Party Guest Cornered by Joel Stein." [30]

In 2014, Stein played himself on an episode of The Neighbors along with Lawrence O'Donnell and Bill Nye.


  1. ^ Stein, Joel (May 24, 2012). "What I Learned When My Son Was Born". The Huffington Post. Retrieved August 8, 2013.
  2. ^ a b Stein, Joel (November 16, 2017). "Hello, I Must Be Going". Retrieved October 8, 2018.
  3. ^ Black, D. Grant (June 15, 2012). "A wine-sipping, sensitive dad in search of real manhood". The Globe and Mail. Toronto. Retrieved August 8, 2013.
  4. ^ Stein, Joel (May 21, 2012). "The Best Book I've Ever Read". Time. Retrieved June 2, 2012.
  5. ^ "Authors@Google: Joel Stein". YouTube. September 28, 2012. Retrieved January 19, 2013.
  6. ^ Stein, Joel (January 24, 2006). "Warriors and wusses". Los Angeles Times.
  7. ^ "Joel Stein chat transcript". Los Angeles Times. January 23, 2007.
  8. ^ Steyn, Mark (January 30, 2006). "Now We Know". The New York Sun.
  9. ^ Fay, Michael D. (March 27, 2006). "The Next 'Best Generation'". The New York Times.
  10. ^ Stein, Joel (December 19, 2008). "Who runs Hollywood? C'mon". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 8, 2013.
  11. ^ Stein, Joel (December 19, 2008). "How Jewish is Hollywood?". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 8, 2013.
  12. ^ "Joel Stein on Who Runs Hollywood". July 6, 2010. Retrieved August 8, 2013.
  13. ^ Marks, Lisa (December 24, 2008). "Why it's still great to be Jewish in Hollywood". The Guardian. London. Retrieved August 8, 2013.
  14. ^ Berrin, Danielle (January 6, 2009). "Joel Stein hates Torah (but loves that Jews run Hollywood)". Jewish Journal. Retrieved August 8, 2013.
  15. ^ MacDonald, Kevin (July 28, 2010). "Oliver Stone". The Occidental Observer. Retrieved August 8, 2013.
  16. ^ Stein, Joel (July 2, 2010). "My Own Private India". Time. Retrieved July 2, 2010.
  17. ^ "Senator Menendez Press release". July 12, 2010.
  18. ^ Penn, Kal (July 2, 2010). "The "Hilarious" Xenophobia of Time's Joel Stein". The Huffington Post. Retrieved July 14, 2010.
  19. ^ a b Tom Scocca (July 6, 2010). "Joel Stein's Immigrant Problem". Slate. Retrieved July 8, 2010.
  20. ^ Stein, Joel (May 20, 2013). "The Me Generation". Time. Retrieved November 13, 2013.
  21. ^ Tracy, Marc (May 9, 2013). "Time Magazine Cover Story on Millennials Misses Mark". The New Republic. Retrieved November 13, 2013.
  22. ^ Reeve, Elspeth (May 9, 2013). "Every Every Every Generation Has Been the Me Me Me Generation". The Atlantic. Retrieved November 13, 2013.
  23. ^ Coscarelli, Joe (May 9, 2013). "'The Me Me Me Generation' vs. 'The Me Decade'". New York. Retrieved November 13, 2013.
  24. ^ Crockett, Emily (May 16, 2013). "Why Millennials Aren't Lazy, Entitled Narcissists". The Nation. Retrieved November 13, 2013.
  25. ^
  26. ^ Lowry, Brian (February 6, 2009). "Why Joel Stein's Column Irritates Me". Variety.
  27. ^ Oxfeld, Jesse (November–December 2001). "It's All About Joel". Stanford Alumni Magazine.
  28. ^ Weiner, Juli (June 30, 2010). "Time's Joel Stein Tries to Fit All Known Indian Stereotypes into Single Column". Vanity Fair.
  29. ^ "Time's New Voice Sure Whines a Lot; Humor Columnist Gives Weekly A Truly Singular Perspective". The New York Times. January 10, 2000.
  30. ^ "Cocktail-Party Guest Cornered By Joel Stein". The Onion. February 23, 2000.

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