Jon Stewart (born Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz; November 28, 1962) is an American comedian, writer, producer, director, political commentator, actor, and television host. He hosted The Daily Show, a satirical news program on Comedy Central, from 1999 to 2015.
|Birth name||Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz|
|Born||November 28, 1962|
New York City, U.S.
|Education||Lawrence High School|
|Alma mater||College of William & Mary|
|Notable works and roles||The Jon Stewart Show (1993–1995)|
The Daily Show (1999–2015)
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 You Wrote It, You Watch It (1992-1993) and then The Jon Stewart Show (1993-1995), both on MTV, until The Jon Stewart Show went on Syndication. Stewart also has appeared in several films, such as Big Daddy (1999) and Death to Smoochy (2002), but did few cinematic projects after becoming host of The Daily Show in 1999. He also was a writer and co-executive producer of the show. After Stewart joined, The Daily Show steadily gained popularity and critical acclaim, and during his tenure, it won 22 Primetime Emmy Awards, 2 Grammy Awards and also was 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, and Earth (The Book): A Visitor's Guide to the Human Race, released in 2010.
Since leaving The Daily Show, Stewart has mostly maintained a low profile in entertainment industry circles, but has used his celebrity and voice in a sustained advocacy for 9/11 first responders, and also for war veterans' health benefits. In 2019 he received the Bronze Medallion for his "tireless advocacy, inspiration, and leadership (helping to) pass the permanent authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act". Stewart is set to host The Problem with Jon Stewart, premiering fall 2021 on Apple TV+.
Early life and education
Jon Stewart was born Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz on November 28, 1962, in New York City, to Marian (née Laskin), a teacher and later educational consultant, and Donald Leibowitz, an energy coordinator for the New Jersey Department of the Treasury. Stewart's family members are Jewish immigrants to America from Poland, Ukraine, and Belarus. One of his grandfathers was born in Manzhouli (now part of Inner Mongolia). He is the second of four sons, with older brother Lawrence, and younger brothers Dan and Matthew.
Stewart's parents divorced when he was eleven years old, and Stewart was largely estranged from his father. 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." He had his surname changed legally to Stewart in 2001. Stewart and his brother Lawrence, who was previously the Chief Operating Officer of NYSE Euronext (parent company of the New York Stock Exchange), grew up in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, where they attended Lawrence High School. According to Stewart, he was subjected to anti-Semitic bullying as a child. He describes himself in high school as "very into Eugene Debs and a bit of a leftist."
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 with his brother at a Woolworth's store, and jokingly says being fired by Lawrence was one of the "scarring events" of his youth.
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. While at William & Mary, Stewart became a member of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity, but later disassociated himself from the fraternity and left after six months. "My college career was waking up late, memorizing someone else's notes, doing bong hits, and going to soccer practice", he later said. His soccer coach would later describe him as a "good player" with "high energy". 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. 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."
With a reputation for being a funny man in school, 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. He made his stand-up debut at The Bitter End, where his comedic idol, Woody Allen, also began. 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). He has implied that the name change was due to a strained relationship with his father, with whom Stewart no longer had any contact.
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. In 1989, Stewart landed his first television job as a writer for Caroline's Comedy Hour. In 1990, 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 relates that his career did not take off until his March 6, 1992, appearance on NBC's Late Night with David Letterman. He was considered a finalist to take over Letterman's position upon his departure from the program, but instead, it was given to relatively unknown Conan O'Brien.
The Jon Stewart Show
Later in 1993, Stewart developed The Jon Stewart Show, a talk show on MTV, which was later dropped by the network and was syndicated for its last two years. 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. 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.
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. 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, but instead, Stewart was offered the time slot after Snyder's, which he turned down.
In 1996 Stewart hosted a short-lived talk show entitled, Where's Elvis This Week?, that was a half-hour, weekly comedy television program. It 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 UK 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, Phill 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 tenth HBO special, 40 Years of Comedy.
The Daily Show
In 1998, when Craig Kilborn left the show to replace Tom Snyder on The Late Late Show (Which is currently hosted by James Corden as of 2015), Stewart began hosting The Daily Show on Comedy Central. The Daily Show blends humor with the day's top news stories, usually in politics, while simultaneously poking fun at politicians, newsmakers, and the news media. In an interview on The O'Reilly Factor, Stewart denied the show has any intentional political agenda, saying the goal was "schnicks and giggles" and that "[t]he same weakness that drove me into comedy also informs my show", meaning that he was uncomfortable talking without hearing the audience laugh. In his first Daily Show on-air appearance on January 11, 1999, Stewart told his guest that evening, Michael J. Fox, that he felt as if "this is my bar mitzvah". His style was described by one critic as, "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."
Until Trevor Noah permanently took over the show in 2015, Stewart 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 won twenty Primetime Emmy Awards for The Daily Show as either a writer or producer, and two for producing The Colbert Report (2013–14), earning a total of twenty-two Primetime Emmy Awards, the most wins for a male individual. In 2005, Stewart and The Daily Show received the Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album for the audiobook edition of America (The Book): A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction. In 2000 and 2004, the show won two Peabody Awards for its coverage of the U.S. presidential elections in those years, called "Indecision 2000" and "Indecision 2004", respectively.
The show of September 20, 2001, the first show after the attacks of September 11, 2001, began with no introduction. Before this, the introduction included footage of a fly-in toward 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.
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. 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 after 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 post-Nightline slot.
On April 4, 2006, Stewart confronted U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) on The Daily Show about his decision to appear at Liberty University, an institution founded by Jerry Falwell whom McCain previously had denounced as one of the "agents of intolerance". 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, "Just– just– just a little" and "I'm afraid so." The clip was played on CNN, was noted and discussed in more detail in the blogosphere and was followed up on in the mainstream media.
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!. 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".
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. He defended his assertion moments later: "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, Stewart apologized on his program, and stated he did not believe Truman was a war criminal: "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."
In April 2010, Comedy Central renewed Stewart's contract to host The Daily Show into 2013. According to a Forbes list of celebrities in 2008, he was earning $14 million a year.
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. In December 2010, Stewart was credited by the White House, 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 that provides health benefits to first responders whose health has been adversely affected by their work at Ground Zero.
On the show of January 10, 2011, Stewart began with a monologue about the shootings in Tucson, Arizona. He said he wished the "ramblings of crazy people didn't in any way resemble how we actually talk to each other on television". Before a commercial break, Stewart told viewers that the show would continue as usual the next night. After the commercial break, the show featured a rerun of a field piece done by Jason Jones two years earlier.
The New York Times opined that Stewart is "the modern-day equivalent of Edward R. Murrow" and the UK national newspaper, The Independent, called him the "satirist-in-chief". In an interview, Senator John McCain described Stewart as "a modern-day Will Rogers and Mark Twain".
Writer Wyatt Cenac said that Stewart cursed him out after Cenac acknowledged he was uncomfortable about a June 2011 Daily Show bit about Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain (reported in July 2015).
In March 2013, it was announced that Stewart would be taking a 12-week hiatus from The Daily Show to direct the film Rosewater, which is based on the book Then They Came for Me by Maziar Bahari. Beginning June 10, 2013, The Daily Show correspondent John Oliver assumed primary hosting duties during Stewart's break. The TV Guide annual survey for 2013 star salaries showed that Stewart was the highest-paid late night host, making an estimated $25–30 million per year.
On July 14, 2014, Stewart interviewed Hillary Clinton about the Middle East. Clinton's condemnations of Hamas led Stewart to ask her: "But don't you think they would look at that though as, they've given a lot of different things a chance and these are the only guys to them that are giving any resistance to what their condition is?" For Gazans living in that situation, he said Hamas could be viewed as "freedom fighters".
Leaving The Daily Show
During a taping of the show on February 10, 2015, Stewart announced he was leaving The Daily Show. Comedy Central president Michele Ganeless confirmed Stewart's retirement with a statement. Later, it was announced that South African comedian Trevor Noah would succeed Stewart as the host of the show. On April 20, 2015, Stewart indicated that his final show would be on August 6, 2015.
On July 28, 2015, Darren Samuelsohn of Politico reported that twice, Stewart had been at the White House for previously unreported meetings with President Obama: once in October 2011 and once in February 2014. Michael D. Shear of The New York Times also picked up on the story. 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 said that his reply was that he was "skeptically idealistic".
On June 19, 2015, due to the horrific events of the Charleston Church Shooting, Stewart decided not to write jokes for the opening monologue. Elaborating on his decision Stewart stated, "I honestly have nothing other than just sadness". Stewart spoke about the racial disparity and injustices in America saying "The Confederate flag flies over South Carolina ... and the roads are named for Confederate generals" describing it as "racial wallpaper" Instead he designated a large portion of the show to his guest that night Malala Yousafzai, calling her "an incredible inspiration," and that "to be quite honest with you, I don't think there's anyone else in the world I would rather talk to tonight than Malala: So that's what we're going to do. And sorry about no jokes."
On August 5, 2015, Stewart's friend of 30 years, comedian Louis C.K., was selected to be the last guest before the final Daily Show episode with Stewart helming the show. C.K. joked that he was there "representing comedy to say good job".
The hour-long-plus final Daily Show on August 6 featured reunions with former correspondents Stephen Colbert, Steve Carell, John Oliver, Samantha Bee, Hasan Minhaj, Ed Helms, Kristen Schaal, Larry Wilmore, Jessica Williams, Aasif Mandvi, Lewis Black, John Hodgeman, Rob Corddry, Olivia Munn, Josh Gad, Michael Che, and Mo Rocca and cameo video clips from people Stewart had targeted over the years, including Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Chris Christie, John Kerry, Chuck Schumer, Bill O'Reilly, Wolf Blitzer, Joe Scarborough, and Mika Brzezinski. During the final episode, there was a pre-taped behind-the-scenes look at the show spoofing the long-take Copacabana scene from Goodfellas, featuring a brief appearance by Martin Scorsese. It concluded with a performance by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.
In November 2015, it was announced that Stewart signed a four-year deal with HBO that would include exclusive digital content for HBO NOW, HBO Go, and other platforms. HBO programming president Casey Bloys has said that "the idea is it will be an animated parody of a cable news network with an Onion-like portal." The team began working with the cloud graphics company, OTOY, to build a system for creating content. Confirmed to be working on the project included Mike Brown, Steve Waltien, Chelsea Devantez, Lucy Steiner, Kate James, and Robby Slowik. The team tested material in Red Bank, New Jersey at The Count Basie Theatre Performing Arts Academy.
HBO and Jon Stewart have decided not to proceed with a short-form digital animated project... We all thought the project had great potential but there were technical issues in terms of production and distribution that proved too difficult given the quick turnaround and topical nature of the material. We're excited to report that we have some future projects together which you will be hearing about in the near future.
After his contract with HBO ended, Stewart signed a multi-year deal with Apple. The show, which will run for multiple seasons, puts Stewart back in the anchor's chair as he explores a host of topics at the center of both the national conversation and his own advocacy work. The still-untitled show, which will feature hourlong, single-subject episodes, will be executive produced by Stewart through his company Busboy Productions.
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.
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 Mort Sinclaire, former TV comedy writer and communist, on Stephen Colbert's audiobook version of I Am America (And So Can You!).
In 2010, Stewart and The Daily Show writing staff released a sequel to their first book entitled, Earth (The Book): A Visitor's Guide to the Human Race. The book is meant to serve as a Baedeker travel guide for an alien civilization that discovers Earth after humanity has died out, most likely by its own hands.
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. In 1995, Stewart signed a three-year deal with Miramax. 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 never were produced. Stewart maintained a relationship with Miramax founders Harvey and Bob Weinstein and appeared in films they 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, in which he played a treacherous television executive; and the animated film Doogal, 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 also has made guest appearances on the children's television series Between the Lions, Sesame Street, Jack's Big Music Show, and Gravity Falls.
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.
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.
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.
After Stewart's departure from The Daily Show, he was listed as an executive producer on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. In addition, Stewart has presented occasional comedic monologues filled with political and media commentary.
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. 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 entitled, Rosewater. It premiered at the September 2014 Toronto International Film Festival, receiving "generally favorable" reviews, and was released to general audiences on November 14, 2014.
On directing, Stewart noted on Employee of the Month 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 the 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." He also expressed interest in directing more films.
Stewart directed the political satire Irresistible, released in June 2020, which follows a demoralized Democratic strategist (played by Steve Carell), who helps a retired veteran (Chris Cooper) run for mayor in a small, right-wing town in Wisconsin.
Hosting and public speaking
Stewart has hosted the Grammy Awards twice, in 2001 and in 2002, and the 78th Academy Awards, which were held March 5, 2006, at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood. Critical response to Stewart's performance was mixed. Roger Ebert compared him favorably to legendary Oscar host Johnny Carson. 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. Stewart and correspondent John Oliver later poked fun at his lackluster reception on The Daily Show 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. The reception to his performance was better received. Matthew Gilbert of the Boston Globe felt the ceremony 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." 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.
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. Stewart gave another speech paying tribute to Springsteen in February 2013 as part of the singer's MusiCares Person of the Year award ceremony.
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. On August 23, 2015, Stewart returned to host the WWE's SummerSlam at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. Later, he got involved in the main event between Rollins and John Cena, helping Rollins retain his WWE World Heavyweight Championship, as well as winning Cena's United States Championship when he interfered and hit Cena with a steel chair. The next night on Raw, he explained his actions, saying he did it for Ric Flair (who was also present), which was to retain his world championship record. Cena then gave Stewart his finishing move, the Attitude Adjustment, to end the segment. Stewart returned at SummerSlam on August 21, 2016 as a special guest.
In 2016, Stewart joined President Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Jill Biden, and David Letterman in honoring military families on May 5 at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland. The special celebration which marked both the USO's 75th anniversary and the fifth anniversary of Joining Forces.
Stewart got into a Twitter war with then-candidate Donald Trump, who in multiple tweets stated that Stewart's changing his name from his birth name indicated that Stewart was a fraud. Stewart and some analysts considered this to be anti-Semitic. Trump then tweeted that Stewart should be "proud of his heritage", and Stewart tweeted back, facetiously, that Trump's real name was "Fuckface Von Clownstick" and that Trump should be proud of the "Clownstick heritage".
In June 2017, Jon Stewart spoke at the funeral service for Ray Pfeifer, an FDNY firefighter from Hicksville, New York, who died after an eight-year battle with cancer as a result of service as a first responder at the September 11th attacks.
Criticism of television journalists
Stewart is known as an outspoken, humorous critic of personality-driven media shows, in particular, those of the U.S. media broadcast networks such as CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC. Critics say Stewart benefits from a double standard: he critiques other news shows from the safe, removed position of his "news satire" desk; Stewart asserts that neither his show nor Comedy Central purport to be anything other than satire and comedy.
In a televised exchange with then-CNN correspondent 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 he referred to both Carlson and co-host Paul Begala as "partisan hacks". 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). 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!"
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."
In January 2005, CNN announced that it was canceling Crossfire. When asked about the cancellation, CNN's incoming president, Jonathan Klein, referred to 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."
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".
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 on The Daily Show that day, so the show ran a short segment showing CNBC giving poor investment advice.
Subsequent media coverage of exchanges between Stewart and Jim Cramer, who had been featured heavily in the original segment, led to a highly anticipated face-to-face confrontation on The Daily Show. 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. 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."
Criticism of Fox News
Throughout his tenure on The Daily Show, Stewart 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". 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 was. The show's anchor, Sean Hannity, apologized for the footage use the following night. A month later, Stewart criticized Fox & Friends cohost Gretchen Carlson – a former Miss America and a 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".
Stewart stepped up his criticism of Fox News in 2010; within five months, The Daily Show had 24 segments criticizing the Fox News coverage. 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".
During an interview with Chris Wallace on June 19, 2011, Stewart called Wallace "insane" for saying that Stewart's earlier comparison of the marketing techniques 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. This comment was ranked by the fact-checking site, PolitiFact, as false, with conditions. Stewart later accepted his error.
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. This culminated in segments across multiple episodes, specifically singling out Sean Hannity and his show's coverage of the Bundy standoff. Hannity would "return fire" by calling out Stewart for associating himself with Cat Stevens during his Rally in 2010. Stewart responded to this by criticizing Hannity for frequently calling Ted Nugent a "friend and frequent guest" on his program and supporting Nugent's violent rhetoric toward Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in 2007. 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.
Controversial statements on the origins of COVID-19
9/11 First Responders Bill
Over the years 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. In March 2009, he criticized a White House proposal to remove veterans from Veterans Administration roles if they had private health insurance; the White House dropped the plan the next day. In 2010, Stewart held an interview with a panel of four of the 9/11 first responders Kenny Specht with the FDNY, Chris Bowman NYPD, Ken George DOT, and Kevin Devlin, Operating Engineer of Heavy Equipment, who discussed their health problems with Stewart. In 2015 four months after leaving The Daily Show he returned to reunite the four, with Specht as the only panelist healthy enough to attend. Devlin had died and the two other panelists, Bowman and George, were too ill to make it to the show.
In February and June 2019, he again went to Congress to oppose the $7.375 billion limit in pay-outs to 9/11 responders through December 2020 and to lobby for permanent funding for the Victims Compensation Fund past December 2020, delivering a tearful testimony.
Sick and dying, they brought themselves down here to speak to no one. Shameful. It’s an embarrassment to the country and it’s a stain on this institution. And you should be ashamed of yourselves for those that aren’t here. But you won’t be because accountability doesn’t appear to be something that occurs in this chamber...And I’m sorry if I sound angry and undiplomatic. But I’m angry, and you should be too, and they’re all angry as well and they have every justification to be that way. There is not a person here, there is not an empty chair on that stage that didn’t tweet out “Never Forget the heroes of 9/11. Never forget their bravery. Never forget what they did, what they gave to this country.” Well, here they are. And where are they? And it would be one thing if their callous indifference and rank hypocrisy were benign, but it’s not. Your indifference cost these men and women their most valuable commodity: time. It’s the one thing they’re running out of.
Stewart continued to be a vocal advocate appearing on late night shows such as The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, and news programs such as Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace, and The Fox Report with Shepherd Smith. On July 12, 2019, the House approved the bill overwhelmingly 402–12. The bill came to the Senate floor where it passed the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund through 2092, virtually funding health care for 9/11 victims and first responders for life. The vote was 97–2 with Republican Senators Rand Paul – KY and Mike Lee – UT opposing. When hearing that the bill had been passed Stewart responded by saying, "It has been the honor of my life working with the 9/11 first responders...these families deserve better...and I will follow you wherever your next adventure shall be".
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.
Stewart supported the 2007–08 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.
Stewart's choice to return to the air did bring criticism that he was undermining the writers of his show. 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. Other former writers of The Daily Show such as David Feldman also have indicated that Stewart was anti-union at the time and punished his writers for their decision to unionize.
The Writers Guild Strike of 2007–08 also was 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 to garner more viewers during the ratings slump. Colbert claimed 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's 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.
Stewart is irreligious, but of Jewish heritage.
While making the 1997 film, Wishful Thinking, a production assistant on the film arranged for a blind date between Stewart and Tracey Lynn McShane. They dated for four years. Stewart proposed to her through a personalized crossword puzzle created with the help of Will Shortz, the crossword editor at The New York Times. They married in 2000. On June 19, 2001, Stewart and his wife filed a joint name change application and legally changed both of their surnames to "Stewart". With the help of in vitro fertilization, the couple has two children.
In 2000, when he was labelled a Democrat, Stewart generally agreed, but described his political affiliation as "more socialist or independent" than Democratic, and Stewart has voted for Republicans, 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". He has been a vocal proponent of single-payer health care system.
Honors and awards
Stewart and other members of The Daily Show have received three Peabody Awards for "Indecision 2000" and "Indecision 2004", covering the 2000 presidential election and the 2004 presidential election, respectively. He received his third Peabody in 2016 for his tenure at The Daily Show.
The Daily Show received the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music, or Comedy Program in 2001, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2009, 2011, 2012, and 2015 and 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. In 2015, The Daily Show resurfaced, winning both categories for one last time for Stewart's swan song as host. Stewart won the Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album in 2005 for his recording, America (The Book): 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 had been correct at the end of that year.) Stewart was named among the 2005 Time 100, an annual list of 100 of the most influential people of the year by Time magazine.
In 2004, Stewart spoke at the commencement ceremonies at his alma mater, William and Mary, and received an honorary Doctor of Arts degree. Stewart was the Class Day keynote speaker at Princeton University in 2004, and the 2008 Sacerdote Great Names speaker at Hamilton College. 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.
On April 21, 2009, President of Liberia Ellen Johnson Sirleaf made Stewart a chief. On October 26, 2010, Stewart was named the Most Influential Man of 2010 by AskMen.
For his advocacy on behalf of 9/11 victims and families, Stewart was one of eighteen individuals and organizations awarded the Bronze Medallion on December 16, 2019. The Bronze Medallion is the highest award conferred upon civilians by New York City.
- Naked Pictures of Famous People (Rob Weisbach Books, 1998) ISBN 0-688-17162-1
- America (The Book): A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction (Warner Books, September 2004) ISBN 0-446-53268-1
- Earth (The Book): A Visitor's Guide to the Human Race (Grand Central Publishing, 2010) ISBN 978-0-446-57922-3
- New Yorkers in journalism
- Political satire
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- Bruce Watson, Jon Stewart: Beyond the Moments of Zen. New Word City, 2014.
- The Daily Show profile
- Jon Stewart at IMDb
- Appearances on C-SPAN
- Works by or about Jon Stewart in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
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