I guess it’s my week of posting about some of my favorite people:
From The Writer’s Almanac, November 28: It’s the birthday of the comedian who has interviewed Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Jimmy Carter, John McCain, Tom Cruise, and Tom Hanks, and on whose show Senator John Edwards announced that he was running for president of the United States. Jon Stewart, (books by this author) the host of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, was born in New York City on this day in 1962. He was raised in New Jersey.
Stewart took over as the host of The Daily Show in January 1999. For the previous 15 years — since he’d graduated from college with a psychology degree — he had worked as a bartender, busboy, shelf-stocker, construction worker, soccer coach, puppeteer for children with disabilities, and he’d been employed by the State of New Jersey and the City University of New York.
All this time Stewart was trying to make it on the New York comedy scene. He lined up a gig at the Bitter End in Greenwich Village but was jeered off stage halfway through his act. Then he got a nightly 1:45 a.m. slot at the Comedy Cellar; his audience at first consisted mostly of the place’s bartenders and staff. He became a friend and frequent guest on David Letterman’s Late Night and was a candidate to replace him on NBC when Letterman left for CBS. Conan O’Brien got Letterman’s spot in 1993, but Stewart got his own MTV show, which had the second-highest ratings on the network but was cancelled after two seasons. In 1999, Comedy Central’s The Daily Show picked up Jon Stewart.
In 2007 a Pew Research poll indicated that Jon Stewart ranked as the 4th Most Admired Journalist — tying with Tom Brokaw, Brian Williams, Dan Rather, and Anderson Cooper. When Senator John Edwards announced his candidacy for president on The Daily Show, Stewart replied: “We’re a fake show, so I want you to know this may not count.”
Each morning on the day of the show, Stewart and the Daily Show team of writers gather for a morning meeting. They sift through material gathered via TiVo, Web sites, newspapers, and magazines looking for — as one show producer said — stories that “make us angry in a whole new way.” In an article titled, “Is Jon Stewart the Most Trusted Man in America?” New York Times writer Michiko Kakutani reported on The Daily Show ritual: At lunchtime, Stewart is scrutinizing the jokes that will appear at the top of the night’s show; by 3 p.m., a script has been written; at 4:15, there’s rehearsal, followed immediately by rewrites; and then show is taped in front of a live audience in the studio at 6 p.m.
Stewart, who proposed to his wife through a crossword puzzle with the help of puzzlemaster Will Shortz, is also the author of a few books, including America (The Book): A Citizen’s Guide to Democracy Inaction (2004), which held the No. 1 New York Times Bestseller spot for 18 weeks in a row. He hosted the Academy Awards in 2006 and 2008.
A taste for irony has kept more hearts from breaking than a sense of humor, for it takes irony to appreciate the joke which is on oneself. – Jessamyn West
The Daily Show with John Stewart and its cast of news anchors, from Steven Colbert, Steve Carrel, (who are both famous, talented and successful with their own projects), Samantha Bee, Wyatt Cenac, and more–have been a near nightly tradition at our house for years. Whether or not you agree with the show’s political bias, it’s hard not to recognize intelligent comedy when you hear it. It takes intelligence and hard work to be funny, really funny, and not to take ourselves so seriously. Laughter gives us strength; and although sometimes what we’re laughing about hurts, writers have the power of saying boldly, loudly, “The emperor isn’t wearning any clothes!”