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Jon Stewart is an American comedian, actor, writer and producer best known for his work as second host of The Daily Show, where he has become a pop culture icon.
Jon Stewart was born Jonathan Stuart Liebowitz to physicist Donald Liebowitz and elementary school teacher Marian Liebowitz, who has since become an educational consultant and one of the leading minds on special education in America. When Stewart was eight years old, his parents divorced, so Stewart and his brother Larry were raised by their mother. Stewart has since referred to a strained relationship with his father in his comedy act, although his mother downplays the tension as jokes. (That notwithstanding, Stewart filed a petition to have his name legally changed on June 19th, 2001, citing several reasons, some of which include: "To protect loved ones from embarrassment (they signed a petition)," "Too many syllables," and "Too mispronounceable." However, some observers have suggested the distance from his father as the true underlying cause, and they point to Stewart's claim Donald Leibowitz has never seen him perform.)
He attended Lawrence High School in Lawrence Township, New Jersey, where he played French horn. At high school (which he described as "a bit leftist,") he felt out of place as the only Jew in the student body. At 17, Stewart attended the College of William and Mary in Virginia, where he studied chemistry and graduated with a bachelors in psychology. He played soccer there, and the team still gives a "Liebo" Award in honor of him to the team clown/sweetheart.
After college, Stewart returned to New Jersey, where he worked as a bartender, a waiter, even as an employee of the state government. He also put on puppet shows for mentally disabled children (no doubt inspired by his mother's work). In April 1987, he took up stand-up comedy with his first gig at the Bitter End in Manhattan, for the first time using the name "Jon Stewart." His first joke was, "What do they call lunch hour in the Diamond District when all the Hasidim are causing a traffic jam in the streets? Yidlock." For the next decade, he would rise quickly in the New York and national comedy scene, while making a name for himself as a cerebral, historically and socially conscious comic who was not above lowbrow and absurdist humor.
In 1993, he was one of NBC's top choices to replace David Letterman as host of the post-Tonight Show timeslot. (The job went to Conan O'Brien.) He also hosted Short Attention Span Theatre and The Jon Stewart Show, which first aired on MTV on October 25th, 1993. The latter show was a critical darling but a favorite target of parental and obscenity watchdog groups. Audiences reaction was lukewarm, and it lasted less than two years, even after a move to syndication.
The critical success of the show, however, led to a six-picture deal with Miramax. While filming the first of these—1997's Wishful Thinking—a production assistant offered to hook him up with her friend, a veterinary assistant named Tracey McShane. Stewart and McShane's first blind date was, according to Stewart's descriptions, awkward, but it at least led to a second date. After a few more dates, the two found they were hitting it off. On June 30th, 1999, on an episode of The View, Stewart publicly announced his engagement to McShane. He also described his unique proposal: He asked The New York Times puzzle editor, Will Shortz, to create a crossword puzzle in which Stewart asked her to marry him. They were married in November of that year.
In 1998, Stewart's career took off. He co-starred in the film Half Baked, the marijuana cult comedy classic which also boosted the career of its star and co-writer, Dave Chappelle. For his role as Enhancement Smoker, Stewart drew on his own past as a marijuana-smoking college student. He also guest hosted The Late Late Show with Tom Snyder for Snyder. Although it seemed an odd fit—the sardonic, self-deprecating, boyish Jewish comic sitting in for the WASP-y, venerable, wry, 60-something radio announcer with the booming voice—Stewart was a surprise hit who had a previously unnoticed gift for perceptive, intelligent interviews. At the same time, he wasn't a guest host, but he played one on TV on HBO's behind the scenes look at a Tonight Show-like talk show, The Larry Sanders Show.
He also wrote a book, Naked Pictures of Famous People. While most comedians' books of the era were their comedy act in book form, Naked Pictures was a collection of essays, short stories and—appropriately enough—fake news stories. It was a tour-de-force of world history, religion and popular culture. In the haphazard order of the pieces, Stewart leapt with glee from a pre-Camelot John F. Kennedy to Hanson to Gerald Ford to Martha Stewart in the first four essays, as though the 20th century were a deck of cards he could shuffle and deal out one at a time. (In later essays, he threw in pre-20th century wild cards with Leonardo da Vinci's "lost notebooks", an eyewitness account of Jesus Christ's Last Supper and Vincent Van Gogh's letters to an AOL chatroom.) In Stewart's comic mind, Judaism took the recently discontinued Joe Camel as its mascot, the Last Supper was a bunch of arrogant Hollywood celebrities heaping abuse on a waiter and the phenomenon of suicide cults (as exemplified by the Heaven's Gate cult) was reduced to worshipers in Stewart's apartment awaiting the return of their savior, Cap'n Crunch. The book also turned archetypes of good and evil upside down. In the first piece, the Kennedy family—considered a tragic fairy tale by many Americans—masked a dark secret out of an H.P. Lovecraft story, while in one of the last pieces, Adolf Hitler—a name synonymous to most with "evil"—found redemption in a Larry King interview. Ironically for one less than three years away from becoming one of television's biggest icons, Stewart also lambasted the business of television. In one of the book's funniest and best remembered pieces, a series of memos detailed ABC's failed attempt to give beatnik comic Lenny Bruce his own sitcom. ("Not crazy about Lenny's original suggestion of a show about a Jewish Davy Crockett with a coonskin yarmulke, although we could give further consideration to the marketing aspects. My opinion is that kids won't buy coonskin yarmulkes, even if we call them beanies, as Mr. Bruce suggested.")
In 1999, Snyder retired from his post-Letterman spot on CBS. Although Stewart, as guest host, was rumored to be his replacement, CBS instead chose Craig Kilborn, then host of Comedy Central's The Daily Show. Within days, Comedy Central announced it would take Stewart as Kilborn's replacement. The result would become legendary. What had once been a local news parody—considered by many a lightweight companion, then replacement for Politically Incorrect, which moved to ABC in 1997—became a razor-sharp and biting contemporary satire which eclipsed even Politically Incorrect. By 2001, the former filler show had become, along with South Park, its network's flagship show, and Stewart had become a national figure. Stewart and his crew were amongst the most popular and respected names on television, and awards took notice, as did audiences. By 2004, the show had hit its peak with its coverage of the presidential race between President George W. Bush and Senator John Kerry; the correspondent crew of Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert, Rob Corddry, Ed Helms and Samantha Bee; and the release of America (The Book): A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction, a parody of social studies textbooks co-written by Stewart and The Daily Show's writing staff. Stewart was featured on the cover of Newsweek. Rolling Stone also featured him on the cover with a headline trumpeting the (entirely true) claim the satirical The Daily Show was considered the first source of news by 18- to 35-year-olds, even above CNN, FOX News and NBC, ABC and CBS. Stewart also made appearances on The O'Reilly Factor and 60 Minutes, amongst other news shows.
Due to the coverage, some declared Stewart as one of the most powerful men in American politics. This was an exaggeration. Despite Stewart's vocal support of Democratic candidates (he even had Sen. Kerry as a guest on his show), Kerry narrowly lost the race, and Republicans maintained control of both the Senate and the House of Representatives. That notwithstanding, he seemed to have some influence, at least over the media. On October 15, 2004, Stewart was the guest on the CNN debate show Crossfire. In a legendary exchange, Stewart called the show "partisan hackery" to host Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala's faces. "Stop, stop, stop, stop hurting America," he told them. He also dismissed questions regarding Bill O'Reilly's recent scandals and conspiracy theories surrounding Bush's debate with Kerry. At last, Carlson said, "You're more fun on your show. Just my opinion." Stewart paused, then shot back, "You know what's interesting, though? You're as big a dick on your show as you are on any show." The clip became an Internet phenomenon as one of the rarest moments in television—an unpaid commentator as a guest on a show speaking the truth as he saw it to the hosts. Less than three months later, on January 6, 2005, CNN announced it was canceling Crossfire. While Stewart's telling the emperor he had no clothes was certainly not the only factor in this decision, observers noted it was almost certainly a factor.
In 2005, Stewart executive produced a spin-off of The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, a parody of Crossfire-styled punditry shows. In 2006, he hosted the Academy Awards Ceremony. Later that year, he hosted and, with his company Busboy Productions Inc., co-executive produced the Comedy Central telethon Night of Too Many Stars: An Overbooked Benefit for Autism Education, no doubt inspired by his mother's work and his own work in that field. Stewart is also developing a second Daily Show spin-off with Demetri Martin, Important Things with Demetri Martin.
He continues to host, write for and win awards for The Daily Show, and he lives in New York with his wife, Tracey McShane, and their children Nathan Thomas Stewart (born July 3, 2004) and Maggie Rose Stewart (born February 4, 2006).
|Short Attention Span Theater||Host||1990–1992|
|The Jon Stewart Show||Host||1993–1995|
|The Daily Show||Host||1997–|
Guest Starring Roles
Talk Show Appearances
|The Sweet Life||1989–1990||Staff Writer||1|
|The Jon Stewart Show||1993–1995||Staff Writer||1||2|
|The Daily Show||1999––||Staff Writer||4||5||6||7||8||9||10||11||12||13|
|Jon Stewart: Unleavened||1996|
|43rd Grammy Awards||February 21, 2001||Grammy Awards|
|78th Academy Awards||March 5, 2006||Academy Awards|
|80th Academy Awards||February 23, 2008||Academy Awards|
|The Jon Stewart Show||1993–1995||Co-Producer||1||2|
|The Daily Show||1999–2002||Co-Executive Producer||4||5||6||7|
|The Daily Show||2003––||Executive Producer||8||9||10||11||12||13|
|The Colbert Report||2005––||Executive Producer||1||2||3||4|
|Important Things with Demetri Martin||2008––||Executive Producer||1|
|Night of Too Many Stars: An Overbooked Benefit for Autism Education||Executive Producer||October 15, 2006|
Awards and Accolades
(20 Nominations, 10 Wins)
- Nominated: Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Series (2001)
- Won: Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music or Comedy Program (2001)
- Nominated: Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program (2002)
- Nominated: Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Series (2002)
- Nominated: Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music or Comedy Program (2002)
- Nominated: Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program (2003)
- Won: Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Series (2003)
- Won: Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music or Comedy Program (2003)
- Won: Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Series (2004)
- Won: Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music or Comedy Program (2004)
- Nominated: Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program (2005)
- Won: Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Series (2005)
- Won: Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music or Comedy Program (2005)
- Nominated: Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Series (2006)
- Won: Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Series (2006)
- Won: Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music or Comedy Program (2006)
- Nominated: Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music or Comedy Program (2007)
- Nominated: Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Series (2007)
- Won: Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Series (2007)
- Nominated: Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program (2007)
(1 Nomination, 1 Win)
- Won: Individual Achievement in Comedy (2008)
(5 Nominations, 2 Wins)
- Won: Individual Achievement in Comedy (2003)
- Nominated: Individual Achievement in Comedy (2004)
- Won: Individual Achievement in Comedy (2005)
- Nominated: Individual Achievement in Comedy (2006)
- Nominated: Individual Achievement in Comedy (2007)
- Nominated: Comedy/Variety - (Including Talk) Series (2007)
- Nominated: Funniest Male Performer in a TV Special (Leading or Supporting) Network, Cable or Syndication (2001)
- Nominated: Favorite Funny Male Star (2005)
- Nominated: Favorite Late Night Talk Show Host (2005)
- Nominated: TV - Choice Personality (2001)
- Was briefly a member of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity at William and Mary. He voluntarily dropped out and has no interest in the fraternity now.