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Jon Stewart

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Jon Stewart
Rallytorestoresanity-jonstewart.png
Stewart in 2010
Birth name Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz
Born (1962-11-28) November 28, 1962 (age 52)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Medium Stand-up, television, film, books
Education Lawrence High School
Alma mater College of William & Mary
Years active 1987–present
Genres Political/news satire, observational comedy, blue comedy, insult comedy
Subject(s) Mass media/news media/media criticism, American politics, current events, religion, Jewish culture, race relations, human sexuality
Spouse Tracey Lynn McShane (m. 2000)
Children 2

Jon Stewart (born Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz; November 28, 1962) is an American comedian, writer, producer, director, actor, media critic, and television host. From 1999 to 2015, he was the host of The Daily Show, a satirical news program that airs on Comedy Central.

Stewart started as a stand-up comedian, but branched into television as host of Short Attention Span Theater for Comedy Central. He went on to host his own show on MTV, called The Jon Stewart Show, and then hosted another show on MTV called You Wrote It, You Watch It. He has also had several film roles as an actor, but has done few cinematic projects since becoming the host of The Daily Show on Comedy Central in early 1999. He is also a writer and co-executive producer of the show. After Stewart joined, The Daily Show steadily gained popularity and critical acclaim, resulting in his eighteen Emmy Awards.

Stewart has gained acclaim as an acerbic, satirical critic of personality-driven media shows, in particular those of the U.S. media networks such as CNN, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC.[1] Critics say Stewart benefits from a double standard: he critiques other news shows from the safe, removed position of his "fake news" desk.[2][3] Stewart agrees, saying that neither his show nor his channel purports to be anything other than satire and comedy. In spite of its self-professed entertainment mandate, The Daily Show has been nominated for news and journalism awards. Stewart hosted the 78th and 80th Academy Awards. He is the co-author of America (The Book): A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction, which was one of the best-selling books in the U.S. in 2004,[4] and Earth (The Book): A Visitor's Guide to the Human Race, released in 2010.

Stewart announced on February 10, 2015, during a taping of The Daily Show, that he would leave the show before the end of 2015,[5] but assured fans that he was not retiring and suggesting that he would continue writing and may return to stand-up comedy or as a part-time correspondent.[6][7] Stewart's final show aired on August 6, 2015.[8]

Early life

Stewart was born Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz on November 28, 1962,[9][10] in New York City, to Marian (née Laskin), a teacher and later educational consultant,[9] and Donald Leibowitz (died June 8, 2013), a professor of physics at The College of New Jersey and Thomas Edison State College.[11][12] Stewart's family emigrated to the U.S. from Poland, Ukraine and Belarus (thus also making him a Litvak Jew); one of his grandfathers was born in Manzhouli (now part of Inner Mongolia).[13] Stewart is the second of four sons, with older brother Lawrence[14] and younger brothers Dan and Matthew.[12] Stewart's parents divorced when Stewart was eleven years old, and Stewart was apparently largely estranged from his father.[9] Because of his strained relationship with his father, which in 2015 he described as "still 'complicated'", he dropped his surname and began using his middle name, Stuart. Stewart stated, "There was a thought of using my mother's maiden name, but I thought that would be just too big a fuck you to my dad...Did I have some problems with my father? Yes. Yet people always view [changing my surname] through the prism of ethnic identity."[15] He had his surname legally changed to Stewart in 2001.[16] Stewart and his brother Lawrence, who was previously the Chief Operating Officer of NYSE Euronext (parent company of the New York Stock Exchange),[14][17] grew up in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, where they attended Lawrence High School.[9] According to Stewart, he was subjected to anti-Semitic bullying as a child.[18] He describes himself in high school as "very into Eugene Debs and a bit of a leftist."[19]

Stewart grew up in the era of the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal, which inspired in him "a healthy skepticism towards official reports". His first job was working at a Woolworths at which his brother Lawrence worked, and jokingly describes being fired by Lawrence as one of the "scarring events" of his youth.[15]

Stewart graduated in 1984 from The College of William & Mary in Virginia, where he played on the soccer team and initially majored in chemistry before switching to psychology.[9][20] While at William & Mary, Stewart became a brother of the Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity,[21] but later disassociated himself from the fraternity and left after six months.[22][23] "My college career was waking up late, memorizing someone else's notes, doing bong hits, and going to soccer practice," he would later recall.[24] His soccer coach would later describe him as a "good player" with "high energy".[25][not in citation given] After college, Stewart held numerous jobs: a contingency planner for the New Jersey Department of Human Services, a contract administrator for the City University of New York, a puppeteer for children with disabilities, a soccer coach at Gloucester High School in Virginia, a caterer, a busboy, a shelf stocker at Woolworth's, a bartender at the Franklin Corner Tavern (a local blue-collar bar), and a bartender at the legendary City Gardens in Trenton, New Jersey.[9][26][27] He has said that working at City Gardens was a pivotal moment for him: "finding this place City Gardens was like, Oh, maybe I'm not a giant weirdo. Maybe there are other people who have a similar sense of yearning for something other than what they have now. I think it inspired a lot of people, man. It was a very creative environment. It was a place of great possibility."[28]

Career

Early work

With a reputation for being a funny man in school,[9][26] Jon Stewart returned to New York City in 1986 to try his hand at the comedy club circuit, but he could not muster the courage to get on stage until the following year.[29] He made his stand-up debut at The Bitter End, where his comedic idol, Woody Allen, also began.[30] He began using the stage name "Jon Stewart" by dropping his last name and changing the spelling of his middle name "Stuart" to "Stewart." He often jokes this is because people had difficulty with the pronunciation of Leibowitz or it "sounded too Hollywood" (a reference to Lenny Bruce's joke on the same theme).[31] He has implied that the name change was actually due to a strained relationship with his father, with whom Stewart no longer had any contact.[27]

Stewart became a regular at the Comedy Cellar, where he was the last performer every night. For two years, he would perform at 2 a.m. while developing his comedic style.[32] In 1989, Stewart landed his first television job as a writer for Caroline's Comedy Hour. In 1991, he began co-hosting Comedy Central's Short Attention Span Theater, with Patty Rosborough. In 1992, Stewart hosted the short-lived You Wrote It, You Watch It on MTV, which invited viewers to send in their stories to be acted out by the comedy troupe, The State.

Stewart felt his career did not take off until a March 1993 appearance on NBC's Late Night with David Letterman.[24] He was considered a finalist to take over Letterman's position upon his departure from the program, but it was instead given to relatively unknown Conan O'Brien.[31]

The Jon Stewart Show

Later in 1993, Stewart developed The Jon Stewart Show, a talk show on MTV. The Jon Stewart Show was the first talk show on that network and was an instant hit, becoming the second-highest rated MTV show behind Beavis and Butt-head.[33] In 1994, Paramount canceled The Arsenio Hall Show and, with new corporate sibling MTV (through MTV parent Viacom's acquisition of the studio), launched an hour-long syndicated late-night version of The Jon Stewart Show. Many local affiliates had moved Hall's show to 2 a.m. during its decline and Stewart's show inherited such early morning time slots in many cities. Ratings were dismal and the show was canceled in June 1995.[citation needed]

Among the fans of the show was David Letterman, who was the final guest of The Jon Stewart Show. Letterman signed Stewart with his production company, Worldwide Pants.[34] Stewart then became a frequent guest host for Tom Snyder on The Late Late Show with Tom Snyder, which was produced by Letterman and aired after the Late Show on CBS. This led to much speculation that Stewart would soon replace Snyder permanently,[35] but Stewart was instead offered the time slot after Snyder's, which he turned down.[36]

In 1996 Stewart hosted the short-lived talk show entitled, "Where's Elvis This Week?" It was a half-hour, weekly comedy television program that aired on Sunday nights in the United Kingdom on BBC Two. It was filmed at the CBS Broadcast Center in New York City and featured a set of panelists, two from the United Kingdom and two from the United States, who discussed news items and cultural issues. The show premiered in the UK on October 6, 1996; five episodes aired in total. Notable panelists included Dave Chappelle, Eddie Izzard, Phil Jupitus, Nora Ephron, Craig Kilborn, Christopher Hitchens, Armando Iannucci, Norm Macdonald, and Helen Gurley Brown.

In 1997, Stewart was chosen as the host and interviewer for George Carlin's 10th HBO special, 40 years of Comedy.

The Daily Show

In 1999, Stewart began hosting The Daily Show on Comedy Central when Craig Kilborn left the show to replace Tom Snyder on The Late Late Show. The show blends humor with the day's top news stories, usually in politics, while simultaneously poking fun at politicians and many newsmakers as well as the news media itself. In an interview on The O'Reilly Factor, Stewart denied the show has any intentional political agenda, saying the goal was "schnicks and giggles." "The same weakness that drove me into comedy also informs my show," meaning that he was uncomfortable talking without hearing the audience laugh.[37] The Daily Show does however inform younger generations of the current world news, and gives this information in a way where it can be informational and comedic. "Stewart does not offer us cynicism for its own sake, but as a playful way to offer the kinds of insights that are not permitted in more serious news formats that slavishly cling to official account of events."[38]

Stewart has since hosted almost all airings of the program, except for a few occasions when correspondents such as Stephen Colbert, Rob Corddry, Jason Jones and Steve Carell subbed for him, and during John Oliver's stint as host during the summer of 2013. Stewart has won a total of nineteen Emmys for The Daily Show as either a writer or producer.[1] In 2005, The Daily Show and Jon Stewart received a Best Comedy Album Grammy Award for the audio book edition of America (The Book). In 2000 and 2004, the show won two Peabody Awards for its coverage of the presidential elections relevant to those years, called "Indecision 2000" and "Indecision 2004", respectively.

Stewart interviewing Admiral Michael Mullen on The Daily Show

The show of September 20, 2001, the first show after the attacks of September 11, 2001, began with no introduction.[39] Before this, the introduction included footage of a fly-in towards the World Trade Center and New York City. The first nine minutes of the show included a tearful Stewart discussing his personal view on the event. His remarks ended as follows:

"The view… from my apartment… was the World Trade Center… and now it's gone, and they attacked it. This symbol of American ingenuity, and strength, and labor, and imagination and commerce, and it is gone. But you know what the view is now? The Statue of Liberty. The view from the South of Manhattan is now the Statue of Liberty. You can't beat that."[39]

In mid-2002, amid rumors that David Letterman was going to switch from CBS to ABC when his contract ran out, Stewart was rumored as Letterman's replacement on CBS.[40] Ultimately, Letterman renewed his contract with CBS. On the March 9, 2002, episode of Saturday Night Live, hosted by Stewart, a "Weekend Update" sketch poked fun at the situation.

In late 2002, ABC offered Stewart his own talk show to air right before Nightline. Stewart's contract with The Daily Show was near expiring, and he expressed strong interest. ABC, however, decided to give another Comedy Central figure, Jimmy Kimmel, the pre-Nightline slot.[41]

On April 4, 2006, Stewart confronted U.S. Senator John McCain about his decision to appear at Liberty University, an institution founded by Jerry Falwell, whom McCain had previously denounced as one of the "agents of intolerance".[42][43] In the interchange, Stewart asked McCain, "You're not freaking out on us? Are you freaking out on us, because if you're freaking out and you're going into the crazy base world—are you going into crazy base world?" McCain replied, "I'm afraid so." The clip was played on CNN and created a surge of articles across the blogosphere.[44][45]

In 2007, The Daily Show was involved in former correspondent Stephen Colbert's announcement that he would run for president in 2008. In 2008, Stewart appeared on the news program Democracy Now![46] A 2008 New York Times story questioned whether he was, in a phrase originally used to describe longtime network news anchor Walter Cronkite, "the most trusted man in America".[47]

On April 28, 2009, during a discussion on torture with Clifford May, Stewart expressed his opinion that former President Harry S. Truman was a war criminal for his use of the atomic bomb on Japan during World War II.[48][49] Moments later, Stewart defended his assertion: "Here's what I think of the atom bombs. I think if you dropped an atom bomb fifteen miles offshore and you said, "The next one's coming and hitting you," then I would think it's okay. To drop it on a city, and kill a hundred thousand people. Yeah. I think that's criminal." On April 30, 2009, Stewart apologized on his program, and stated he did not believe Truman was a war criminal:[50] "I shouldn't have said that, and I did. So I say right now, no, I don't believe that to be the case. The atomic bomb, a very complicated decision in the context of a horrific war, and I walk that back because it was in my estimation a stupid thing to say."[51]

In April 2010, Comedy Central renewed Stewart's contract to host The Daily Show into 2013.[52] Stewart is paid a reported $1.5 million for one season of The Daily Show.[53] According to the Forbes list of Celebrities in 2008, he was earning $14 million a year.[54]

On September 16, 2010, Stewart and Stephen Colbert announced a rally for October 30, known as the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear. It took place on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. and attracted an estimated 215,000 participants.[55] In December 2010, Stewart was credited by the White House and other media and political news outlets for bringing awareness of the Republican filibuster on the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act to the public, leading to the ultimate passing of the bill which provides health benefits to first responders whose health has been adversely affected by their work at Ground Zero.[56]

On the show of January 10, 2011, Stewart began with a monologue about the shootings in Tucson, AZ.[57] Stewart said that he wished the "ramblings of crazy people didn't in any way resemble how we actually talk to each other on television".[58] Before commercial break, Stewart told viewers that the show would continue as usual the next night. After commercial break, the show featured a rerun of a field piece done by Jason Jones two years earlier.

As a result of such high-profile political stands, Stewart is being recognized as a political force rather than merely as a comedian. The New York Times suggested that he is "the modern-day equivalent of Edward R. Murrow"[59] and the UK national newspaper The Independent called him the "satirist-in-chief".[60] In an interview, Senator John McCain described Stewart as "a modern-day Will Rogers and Mark Twain".[61]

Wyatt Cenac said in July 2015 that Stewart cursed him out after Cenac acknowledged he was uncomfortable about a June 2011 Daily Show bit about Republican Presidential candidate Herman Cain.[62][63]

In March 2013, it was announced that Stewart would be taking a 12-week hiatus from The Daily Show to direct the film Rosewater, based on the book Then They Came for Me by Maziar Bahari.[64][65] Beginning on June 10, 2013, The Daily Show correspondent John Oliver assumed primary hosting duties during Stewart's break.[66] TV Guide‍ '​s annual survey for 2013 star salaries showed that Stewart is the highest-paid late night host, making an estimated $25–30 million per year.[67]

During a taping of the show on February 10, 2015, Stewart announced that he was leaving The Daily Show.[68] Comedy Central President Michele Ganeless confirmed Stewart's retirement with a statement.[69] It was later announced that South African comedian Trevor Noah would succeed Stewart as the host of the show.[6] On April 20, 2015, Stewart indicated that his final show would be on August 6, 2015.[8]

On July 28, 2015, Darren Samuelsohn of Politico reported that Jon Stewart had been twice at the White House for previously unreported meetings with President Barack Obama: once in October 2011 and once in February 2014.[61] Michael D. Shear of The New York Times also picked up on the story.[70] Stewart responded on his show by pointing out that the meetings were listed in the President's publicly-available visitor log and that he has been asked to meet privately by many prominent individuals including Roger Ailes of Fox News. He said Obama encouraged him not to make young Americans cynical about their government, and Stewart replied that he was actually "skeptically idealistic".[71]

The hour-plus-long final show on August 6 featured reunions with former Daily Show correspondents and cameo video clips from people Stewart had targeted over the years including Bill O'Reilly, John McCain, Chris Christie, and Hillary Clinton. It concluded with a performance by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.[72]

Writings

Stewart at the launch of his book, Earth, in New York, September 27, 2010.

In 1998, Stewart released his first book, Naked Pictures of Famous People, a collection of humorous short stories and essays. The book reached The New York Times Best Seller List.[citation needed]

In 2004, Stewart and The Daily Show writing staff released America (The Book): A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction, a mock high school History textbook offering insights into the unique American system of government, dissecting its institutions, explaining its history and processes, and satirizing such popular American political precepts as "one man, one vote", "government by the people," and "every vote counts." The book sold millions of copies upon its 2004 release and ended the year as a top-fifteen best seller.[4]

In 2005, Stewart provided the voice of President James A. Garfield for the audiobook version of Sarah Vowell's Assassination Vacation.

In 2007, Stewart voiced a role on Stephen Colbert's audiobook version of I Am America (And So Can You!). He plays Mort Sinclaire, former TV comedy writer and Communist.

On September 21, 2010, Earth (The Book): A Visitor's Guide to the Human Race, written by Stewart and other writers of The Daily Show, was released.

In March 2012, Stewart interviewed Bruce Springsteen for Rolling Stone.[73]

Acting

Although best known for his work on The Daily Show, Stewart has had roles in several films and television series.

His first film role was a bit part in the box-office bomb Mixed Nuts. He landed a minor part in The First Wives Club, but his scene was deleted.[74] In 1995, Stewart signed a three-year deal with Miramax.[75] He played romantic leads in the films Playing by Heart and Wishful Thinking. He had a supporting role in the romantic comedy Since You've Been Gone and in the horror film The Faculty. Other films were planned for Stewart to write and star in, but they were never produced. Stewart has since maintained a relationship with Miramax founders Harvey and Bob Weinstein and continues to appear in films they have produced including Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Doogal and the documentary Wordplay.

He appeared in Half Baked as an "enhancement smoker" and in Big Daddy as Adam Sandler's roommate; he has joked on the Daily Show and in the documentary The Aristocrats that to get the role he slept with Sandler. Stewart often makes fun of his appearances in the high-profile flop Death to Smoochy,[76] in which he played a treacherous television executive, and the animated film Doogal,[77] where he played a blue spring named Zeebad who shot a freeze ray from his mustache. In 2007, Stewart made a cameo appearance as himself in Evan Almighty, which starred former Daily Show correspondent Steve Carell. In the movie, Stewart was seen on a television screen in a fictional Daily Show episode poking fun at Carell's character for building an ark.

Stewart had a recurring role in The Larry Sanders Show, playing himself as an occasional substitute and possible successor to late-night talk show host Larry Sanders (played by Garry Shandling). In 1998, Stewart hosted the television special, Elmopalooza, celebrating 30 years of Sesame Street. He has guest-starred on other sitcoms including The Nanny, Dr Katz, Professional Therapist, Spin City, NewsRadio, American Dad!, and The Simpsons. He has made guest-appearances on the children's television series Between the Lions, Sesame Street and Jack's Big Music Show.

Producing

In the mid-1990s, Stewart launched his own production company, Busboy Productions, naming the company in reference to his previous job as a busboy. Stewart signed a deal with Miramax to develop projects through his company, but none of his ideas have been produced. After Stewart's success as host and producer of The Daily Show, he revived Busboy Productions with Daily Show producers Ben Karlin and Rich Korson. In 2002, Busboy planned to produce a sitcom for NBC starring Stephen Colbert, but the show did not come to fruition.[78]

In 2005, Comedy Central reached an agreement with Busboy in which Comedy Central would provide financial backing for the production company. Comedy Central has a first-look agreement on all projects, after which Busboy is free to shop them to other networks.[79][80] The deal spawned the Daily Show spin-off The Colbert Report and its replacement The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore. Other projects include the sitcom pilot Three Strikes, the documentary Sportsfan, the series Important Things with Demetri Martin, and the film The Donor.

Directing

In March 2010, Stewart announced that he had optioned rights to the story of journalist Maziar Bahari, who was imprisoned in Iran for 118 days.[81] On the June 6, 2011 episode of The Daily Show, Stewart again hosted Bahari, and in March 2013, he announced that he was leaving the show for 12 weeks to direct the film version of Bahari's 2011 book Then They Came For Me. Stewart's screenplay adaptation is titled Rosewater.[82][83] It premiered at the September 2014 Toronto International Film Festival, receiving "generally favorable" reviews,[84] and was released to general audiences on November 14, 2014.

On directing, Stewart noted on Lazarus's show that "The Daily Show" influenced his directing process more than his acting gigs did. He said, "It's about the collaboration. It's about understanding. Doing a show taught me this process of clarity of vision, but flexibility of process. So know your intention, know where you're wanting to go with the scene with the way that you want it to go, the momentum shifts, the emphasis, where you want it to be."[85] He also expressed interest in directing more films.[86]

Hosting and public speaking

Stewart has hosted the Grammy Awards twice, in 2001 and in 2002,[citation needed] and the 78th Academy Awards, which were held March 5 at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood.[87] Critical response to Stewart's performance was mixed. Roger Ebert compared him favorably to legendary Oscar host Johnny Carson.[88] Other reviewers were less positive; Tom Shales of The Washington Post said that Stewart hosted with "smug humorlessness." James Poniewozik of Time said that Stewart was a bad host, but a great "anti-host" in that he poked fun at parts of the broadcast that deserved it, which lent him a degree of authenticity with the non-Hollywood audience.[89] Stewart and correspondent John Oliver later poked fun at his lackluster reception on The Daily Show's coverage of the 79th Academy Awards by saying that the "demon of last year's Oscars had finally been exorcised."

Stewart returned to host the 80th Academy Awards on February 24, 2008.[90] The reception to his performance was better received. Matthew Gilbert of the Boston Globe felt the ceremony itself was average but praised Stewart, writing that, "It was good to see Jon Stewart being Jon Stewart. He is shaping up to be a dependable Oscar host for the post-Billy Crystal years. He's not musical, but he's versatile enough to swing smoothly between jokes about politics, Hollywood, new media, and, most importantly, hair."[91] Variety columnist Brian Lowry lauded Stewart's performance noting that he "earned his keep by maintaining a playful, irreverent tone throughout the night, whether it was jesting about Cate Blanchett’s versatility or watching Lawrence of Arabia on an iPhone screen.[92]

In December 2009, Stewart gave a speech at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts honoring Bruce Springsteen, one of that year's Kennedy Center Honors recipients, and of whom Stewart is a fan.[93] Stewart gave another speech paying tribute to Springsteen in February 2013 as part of the singer's MusiCares Person of the Year award ceremony.[94]

Stewart began a comedic feud with WWE wrestler Seth Rollins in March 2015, and appeared on WWE Raw during a Daily Show-styled segment hosted by Rollins.[95] On August 23, 2015, Stewart returned to host the WWE's SummerSlam at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.[96]

Stewart's criticism of television journalists

Crossfire appearance

In a televised exchange with then-CNN personality Tucker Carlson on Crossfire on October 15, 2004, Stewart criticized the state of television journalism and pleaded with the show's hosts to "stop hurting America", and referred to both Carlson and co-host Paul Begala as "partisan hacks".[3][97] When posted on the internet, this exchange became widely viewed and was a topic of much media discussion.

Despite being on the program to comment on current events, Stewart immediately shifted the discussion toward the show itself, asserting that Crossfire had failed in its responsibility to inform and educate viewers about politics as a serious topic. Stewart stated that the show engaged in partisan hackery instead of honest debate, and said that the hosts' assertion that Crossfire is a debate show is like "saying pro wrestling is a show about athletic competition." Carlson responded by saying that Stewart criticizes news organizations for not holding public officials accountable, but when he interviewed John Kerry, Stewart asked a series of "softball" questions (Stewart has acknowledged he voted for Kerry in the 2004 presidential election).[98] Stewart responded that he didn't realize "the news organizations look to Comedy Central for their cues on integrity." When Carlson continued to press Stewart on the Kerry issue, Stewart said, "You're on CNN! The show that leads into me is puppets making crank phone calls! What is wrong with you?" In response to prods from Carlson, "Come on. Be funny," Stewart said, "No, I'm not going to be your monkey." Later in the show when Carlson jibed, "I do think you're more fun on your show," Stewart retorted, "You're as big a dick on your show as you are on any show." In response to Stewart's criticisms, Carlson said, "You need to get a job at a journalism school," to which Stewart responded, "You need to go to one!"[3]

Stewart discussed the incident on The Daily Show the following Monday:

We decided to go to this place, Crossfire, which is a nuanced public policy analysis show… named after the stray bullets that hit innocent bystanders in a gang fight. So I go to Crossfire and, let's face it, I was dehydrated, it's the Martin Lawrence defense… and I had always in the past mentioned to friends and people that I meet on the street that I think that show… um… blows. So I thought it was only the right thing to do to go say it to them personally on their program, but here's the thing about confronting someone with that on their show: They're there! Uncomfortable! And they were very mad, because apparently, when you invite someone on a show called Crossfire and you express an opinion, they don't care for that… I told them that I felt their show was hurting America and they came back at me pretty good, they said that I wasn't being funny. And I said to them, "I know that, but tomorrow I will go back to being funny, and your show will still blow."[2][99]

In January 2005, CNN announced that it was canceling Crossfire. When asked about the cancelations, CNN/U.S.'s incoming president, Jonathan Klein, referenced Stewart's appearance on the show: "I think he made a good point about the noise level of these types of shows, which does nothing to illuminate the issues of the day."[100]

On March 18, 2009, Carlson wrote a blog entry for The Daily Beast criticizing Stewart for his handling of the CNBC controversy (see below). Carlson discussed the CNN incident and claimed that Stewart remained backstage for at least "an hour" and "continued to lecture our staff", something Carlson described as "one of the weirdest things I have ever seen."[101]

Criticism of CNBC

Stewart again became a viral internet phenomenon following a March 4, 2009, The Daily Show sequence. CNBC canceled Rick Santelli's scheduled appearance but Stewart still ran a short segment showing CNBC giving bad investment advice.[102]

Subsequent media coverage of exchanges between Jim Cramer, who had been featured heavily in the original segment, and Stewart, led to a highly anticipated face-to-face confrontation on The Daily Show.[103] The episode received much media attention and became the second most-viewed episode of The Daily Show, trailing only the 2009 Inauguration Day episode. It had 2.3 million total viewers, and the next day, the show's website saw its highest day of traffic in 2009.[104] Although Cramer acknowledged on the show that some of Stewart's criticisms of CNBC were valid and that the network could "do better," he later said on The Today Show that Stewart's criticism of the media was "naïve and misleading."[105]

Criticism of Fox News

Throughout his tenure on The Daily Show, Stewart has frequently accused Fox News of distorting the news to fit a conservative agenda, at one point ridiculing the network as "the meanest sorority in the world."[106] In November 2009, Stewart called out Fox News for using some footage from a previous Tea Party rally during a report on a more recent rally, making the latter event appear more highly attended than it actually was. The show's anchor, Sean Hannity, apologized for the footage use the following night.[107] A month later, Stewart criticized Fox & Friends cohost Gretchen Carlson – a former Miss America and Stanford graduate – for claiming that she googled words such as "ignoramus" and "czar". Stewart said that Carlson was dumbing herself down for "an audience who sees intellect as an elitist flaw".[108]

Stewart stepped up his criticism of Fox News in 2010; as of April 24, The Daily Show had 24 segments criticizing Fox News' coverage.[52] Bill O'Reilly, host of the talk show The O'Reilly Factor on Fox News, countered that The Daily Show was a "key component of left-wing television" and that Stewart loved Fox News because the network was "not boring".[52]

During an interview with Chris Wallace on June 19, 2011, Stewart called Wallace "insane" after Wallace said that Stewart's earlier comparison of a Sarah Palin campaign video and an anti-herpes medicine ad was a political comment. Stewart also said Fox viewers are the "most consistently misinformed" viewers of political media.[109] This comment was ranked by fact-checking site PolitiFact as false, with conditions. Stewart later accepted his error.[110]

In 2014, Stewart engaged in an extended "call-out" of Fox News based on their perceived hypocritical coverage of food stamps and U.S. Government assistance.[111] This culminated during the Cliven Bundy scandal involving multiple segments, across multiple episodes, specifically singling out Sean Hannity and Hannity's coverage of the event. Hannity would then "return fire" by calling out Stewart for associating himself with Cat Stevens during his Rally in 2010.[112] Stewart responded to this by calling out Hannity for frequently calling Ted Nugent a "friend and frequent guest" on his program and supporting Nugent's violent rhetoric towards Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in 2007.[113] In late August 2014, Stewart vehemently opposed the manner in which Fox News portrayed the events surrounding the shooting of teenager Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri and the subsequent protests from citizens. He especially vilified the network's disregard for the aspect of race and racial tension in this matter.[114]

Advocacy

Stewart sometimes used The Daily Show to argue for causes such as the treatment of veterans and 9/11 first responders. He is credited with breaking a Senate deadlock over a bill to provide health care and benefits for 9/11 emergency workers; the bill passed three days after he featured a group of 9/11 responders on the show.[61] In March 2009, he criticized a White House proposal to remove veterans from Veterans Administration rolls if they had private health insurance; the White House dropped the plan the next day.[61]

Writers Guild of America strike of 2007–2008

Stewart was an important factor in the unionization of the Comedy Central writers. The Daily Show writers were the first of Comedy Central's writers to be able to join the guild, after which other shows followed.[115][116]

Stewart supported the 2007–2008 Writers Guild of America strike. On The Daily Show episode just before the strike, he sarcastically commented about how Comedy Central had made available all episodes for free on their website, but without advertising, and said, "go support our advertisers". The show went on hiatus when the strike began, as did other late night talk shows. Upon Stewart's return to the show on January 7, 2008, he refused to use the title The Daily Show, stating that "The Daily Show" was the show made with all of the people responsible for the broadcast, including his writers. During the strike, he referred to his show as A Daily Show with Jon Stewart until the strike ended on February 13, 2008.[117]

Stewart's choice to return to the air and undermine the writers of his show did bring inside criticism from others at the time. Seth MacFarlane wrote an inside joke into an episode of Family Guy about this, causing Stewart to respond with an hour-long call in which he questioned how MacFarlane could consider himself the "moral arbiter" of Hollywood.[118] Other former writers of The Daily Show such as David Feldman have also indicated that Stewart was anti-union at the time and punished his writers for their decision to unionize.[119][120]

The Writers Guild Strike of 2007–08 was also responsible for a notable mock feud between Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and Conan O'Brien in early 2008. Without writers to help fuel their banter, the three comedians concocted a crossover/rivalry in order to garner more viewers during the ratings slump. Colbert made the claim that because of "the Colbert bump", he was responsible for Mike Huckabee's success in the 2008 presidential race. O'Brien claimed that he was responsible for Huckabee's success because not only had he mentioned Huckabee on his show, but also that he was responsible for Chuck Norris' success (Norris backed Huckabee). In response, Stewart claimed that he was responsible for the success of O'Brien, since Stewart had featured him on The Jon Stewart Show, and in turn the success of Huckabee. This resulted in a three-part comedic battle between the three pundits, with all three appearing on each other's shows. The feud ended on Late Night with Conan O'Brien with a mock brawl involving the three hosts.[121]

Influences

Stewart has said his influences include George Carlin,[122] Lenny Bruce,[123] David Letterman,[124] Steve Martin,[125] and Richard Pryor.[9] Among comedians who say they were influenced by Stewart are Stephen Colbert,[18] John Oliver,[126] Larry Wilmore,[127] and Trevor Noah.[128]

Personal life

Stewart is Jewish by ethnicity but is irreligious.[129]

While making the 1997 film Wishful Thinking, a production assistant on the film set Stewart up on a blind date with Tracey Lynn McShane. They dated for four years.[125][130] Stewart proposed to her through a personalized crossword puzzle created with the help of Will Shortz, the crossword editor at The New York Times.[131][132] They married in 2000.[125][130][133]

On June 19, 2001, Stewart and his wife filed a joint name change application and legally changed both of their surnames to "Stewart."[16] The couple has two children: son Nathan[9] (born July 3, 2004), and daughter Maggie (born February 4, 2006).[134]

In 2000, when he was labeled a Democrat, Stewart generally agreed but described his political affiliation as "more socialist or independent" than Democratic.[135] Stewart has voted for Republicans in the past, the last time being in the 1988 presidential election when he voted for George H. W. Bush over Michael Dukakis. He described Bush as having "an integrity about him that I respected greatly".[136]

Honors and awards

Stewart with the Peabody Award that he won with The Daily Show in 2005

Stewart and other members of The Daily Show have received two Peabody Awards for "Indecision 2000"[137] and "Indecision 2004",[138] covering the 2000 presidential election and the 2004 presidential election, respectively.

The Daily Show received the Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music or Comedy Program Emmy Award in 2001, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2009, and 2011, and the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Series for 10 consecutive years from 2003 to 2012. In 2013, the award for both categories instead went to The Daily Show spin-off The Colbert Report.

Stewart won a Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album in 2005 for his recording, America (The Audiobook): A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction.

In the December 2003 New Year's edition of Newsweek, Stewart was named the "Who's Next?" person for 2004, with the magazine predicting that he would emerge as an absolute sensation in that year. (The magazine said they were right at the end of that year.)

In 2004, Stewart spoke at the commencement ceremonies at his alma mater, William and Mary, and received an honorary Doctor of Arts degree.[139] Stewart was also the Class Day keynote speaker at Princeton University in 2004,[140] and the 2008 Sacerdote Great Names speaker at Hamilton College.

Stewart was named one of the 2005 Time 100, an annual list of 100 of the most influential people of the year by Time magazine.[141]

Stewart and The Daily Show received the 2005 National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) George Orwell Award for Distinguished Contribution to Honesty and Clarity in Public Language.

Stewart was presented an Honorary All-America Award by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) in 2006.[142]

On April 21, 2009, President of Liberia Ellen Johnson Sirleaf made Stewart a chief.[143]

On October 26, 2010, Stewart was named the Most Influential Man of 2010 by AskMen.com.[144]

Filmography

Film

Year Title Role Notes
1994 Mixed Nuts Rollerblader
1996 The First Wives Club Elise's lover Scenes deleted
1997 Wishful Thinking Henry
1998 Half Baked Enhancement Smoker
1998 The Faculty Prof Edward Furlong
1998 Playing by Heart Trent
1999 Big Daddy Kevin Gerrity
2000 The Office Party Pizza Guy Short film
2000 Committed Party Guest Uncredited cameo
2001 Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back Reg Hartner
2002 Death to Smoochy Marion Frank Stokes
2002 The Adventures of Tom Thumb and Thumbelina Godfrey (voice)
2006 Doogal Zeebad (voice)
2006 Wordplay Himself Documentary
2007 Evan Almighty Himself
2008 The Great Buck Howard Himself
2011 The Adjustment Bureau Himself
2011 The Beaver Himself
2014 Rosewater Director, producer, writer

Television

Year Title Role Notes
1989–1993 Short Attention Span Theater Himself (host) Episode: "Comedy Bootcamp"
1993–1995 The Jon Stewart Show Himself (host) 160 episodes; also creator, executive producer, writer
1994 The State Fanmail Guy Episode: "2.4"
1996 Jon Stewart: Unleavened Himself Stand-up special
1996–1997 The Larry Sanders Show Himself 2 episodes
1997 The Nanny Bobby Episode: "Kissing Cousins"
1997 NewsRadio Andrew Episode: "Twins"
1997 Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist Jon (voice) Episode: "Guess Who"
1997 Space Ghost Coast to Coast Himself Episode: "Mayonnaise"
1997 Mr. Show with Bob and David Himself Episode: "A White Man Set Them Free"
1998 Since You've Been Gone Todd Zalinsky Movie
1998 Elmopalooza Himself Special
1999 Spin City Parker Episode: "Wall Street"
1999–2015 The Daily Show Himself (host) 2,579 episodes; also executive producer, writer
2001 43rd Annual Grammy Awards Himself (host) Special
2002 44th Annual Grammy Awards Himself (host) Special
2002 Saturday Night Live Himself (host) Episode: "Jon Stewart/India.Arie"
2005–2014 The Colbert Report 1,447 episodes; co-creator, executive producer
2006 78th Academy Awards Himself (host) Special
2006 American Dad! Himself (voice) Episode: "Irregarding Steve"
2007 Jack's Big Music Show Brunk Stinegrouber Episode: "Groundhog Day"
2008 The Simpsons Himself (voice) Episode: "E Pluribus Wiggum"
2008 80th Academy Awards Himself (host) Special
2008 A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All! Himself Special
2009–2010 Important Things with Demetri Martin 17 episodes; executive producer
2010 Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear Himself (host) Special
2012 Robot Chicken Matt Trakker, Serpentor (voice) Episode: "Executed by the State"
2013 Big Time Rush Himself Episode: "Big Time Invasion"
2014 Phineas and Ferb Mr. Random (voice) Episode: "The Klimpaloon Ultimatum"
2015 WWE Monday Night Raw Himself Episode: March 2nd Edition
Episode: August 24th Edition
2015–present The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore Creator, executive producer
2015 SummerSlam Himself Host of the show

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Further reading

  • Jon Stewart: Beyond the Moments of Zen by Bruce Watson, (New Word City, 2014) ASIN B0093FPMVU

External links

Media offices
Preceded by
Craig Kilborn
Host of The Daily Show
1999–2015
Succeeded by
Trevor Noah