Who Is Jon Stewart?
By 1989, comedian Jon Stewart was hosting the Comedy Central series Short Attention Span Theater. In 1993, he launched MTV's first talk show, The Jon Stewart Show. Throughout the 1990s, Stewart appeared on several television programs. In 1999, he became anchorman of The Daily Show (later renamed The Daily Show with Jon Stewart), announcing his departure in 2015 after a highly esteemed run. He is also a film and TV actor, appearing in the comic films Half Baked (1998) and Big Daddy (1999), among a variety of other productions.
Stewart was born Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz on November 28, 1962, in New York City. (He later legally changed his last name to Stewart.) His family later relocated to Lawrenceville, New Jersey, where Stewart spent most of his youth.
In 1984, Stewart graduated from the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, where he studied psychology and played on the men's soccer team.
TV Host: 'Short Attention Span Theater' and 'The John Stewart Show'
After bouncing among a number of jobs, Stewart moved to New York City in 1986 to break into the comedy club circuit. Three years later, he was hosting Comedy Central's Short Attention Span Theater. In 1993, he launched MTV's first talk show, The Jon Stewart Show.
Throughout the 1990s, Stewart appeared on numerous television programs, including a regular role as himself on The Larry Sanders Show. Other credits include the comedy special Jon Stewart: Unleavened, guest host of The Late Late Show with Tom Snyder and the guest host of Mr. Show with Bob & David.
'The Daily Show with Jon Stewart'
In January 1999, Stewart took over as anchorman for The Daily Show, a popular late-night show that dubbed itself "the most trusted name in fake news." With fast-paced dialogue and sardonic wit, Stewart, who was also the show's co-executive producer, became a highly visible critic of Washington politics and the established news media.
Due to the success of The Daily Show, which won a slew of Primetime Emmy Awards, Stewart became an in-demand public figure. He went on to host numerous award shows, including the Grammys in 2001 and 2002, and the Academy Awards in 2006 and 2008.
In February 2015, Stewart made the announcement during a taping that he would be leaving The Daily Show later in the year. On August 6, 2015, Stewart signed off on his last episode of The Daily Show, celebrating with his news team and getting a star-studded farewell from some of his most famous political targets.
The program once again won an Emmy several weeks later for Outstanding Variety Talk Series, with Stewart using his trademark wit at the ceremony telecast to talk of life post-Show. Comedian Trevor Noah took the reins of The Daily Show after Stewart's exit.
Films: 'Half Baked' to 'Rosewater'
Stewart is also a film and television actor. His film career has been mixed, from the stoner comedy Half Baked (1998) to the box-office bomb Death to Smoochy (2002) with Robin Williams and Edward Norton, to the successful Adam Sandler vehicle Big Daddy (1999). He also had roles in the romantic drama Playing by Heart and the horror-comedy The Faculty, which were both released in 1998. In addition, Stewart has lent his voice to several animated films, including Doogal (2006).
In 2013, he took a break from The Daily Show to work on his directorial debut with the film Rosewater. Stewart also wrote the screenplay, adapted from the 2011 nonfiction work Then They Came for Me: A Family's Story of Love, Captivity and Survival by Maziar Bahari and Aimee Molloy.
In an interview with The New York Times, Stewart explained why he took on this dramatic project. "One of the reasons we are in this business is to challenge ourselves," he said. "And I really connected to Maziar's story. It's a personal story but one with universal appeal about what it means to be free."
Along with running the pseudo-news program The Daily Show, Stewart became a strong political voice among young American voters, with his show consistently ranking as one of the top viewed programs by the 18-34 age demographic. Not one to shy away from heavy topics while still bringing comedy to the table, Stewart interviewed and debated with several respected political presences, including Rachel Maddow, Bill O'Reilly and Tucker Carlson.
Stewart's commentary was known to leave an impact. After criticizing Carlson's CNN program, Crossfire — stating that the show encouraged separation of political parties, creating division among Americans — the show was canceled, partially due to Stewart's commentary. His debates with O'Reilly also showcased his political presence on a grander scale, addressing topics such as health care, foreign affairs in Syria and the actions of the GOP.
After launching the career of co-worker Stephen Colbert — who branched off from The Daily Show to create the political satire The Colbert Report — the duo teamed up again in October 2010 for the "Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear." The rally, which took place at the National Mall in Washington, D.C., closely resembled Glenn Beck's "Restoring Honor Rally," held just two months prior. Stewart and Colbert's joint rally brought in a reported 215,000 people, by some estimates more than doubling the number of participants at Beck's rally.
In June 2019, Stewart drew attention for his appearance at a House Judiciary Committee hearing on reauthorizing the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. Seething at the sparse turnout, he blasted committee members for failing to show compassion toward the 9/11 first responders who were now battling health issues.
"Sick and dying, they brought themselves down here to speak to no one," he said, tearing up. "Shameful. It's an embarrassment to the country and it is a stain on this institution."
'Naked Pictures' and Other Books
Stewart's writing has also been published in several magazines, including The New Yorker and Esquire, and he has authored multiple books. His first effort was Naked Pictures of Famous People (1998), a collection of satirical essays. He later teamed with other Daily Show writers to put out America (The Book): A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction (2004) and Earth (The Book): A Visitor's Guide to the Human Race (2010).
Next Career Steps
In November 2015, Stewart took his first step toward the next phase of his career with the announcement he had signed a four-year deal to create digital content for HBO platforms. However, after many starts and stops, HBO and Stewart decided to part ways on what was originally an animation project, citing too many technical and production issues. In its official statement, the premium cable channel said it would be working with Stewart on other projects. In November 2017, Stewart served as host on HBO's Night of Too Many Stars, a comedy benefit show to raise money and awareness for autism.
Stewart and wife Tracey McShane have been married since 2000. They have a son, Nathan Thomas, and a daughter, Maggie Rose.
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