A Gifted Entertainer and Comic Much of the Time
A Trusted Newsman, Pundit and Inquisitor on Occasion
When a much loved talk show comic is dubbed by The New York Times as the ‘modern day equivalent of Edward R. Murrow”, the famed CBS newsman, and possibly the “most trusted man in America” – as Walter Cronkite was known to be in his day – we are witnessing a media happening like few others. When Brian Williams, after Stewart the second most trusted news talking head in America, falls out of the sky by his own hand as a ‘real newsman’ trying to be entertaining, we have the perfect counterpoint surprise.
But what does it all mean? Perhaps it is true after all that news and entertainment have become so intertwined that no one can be sure whether they are being fed the facts or carefully crafted ideology or even propaganda on TV. In the business of drawing out truth from power via the media, we have Charlie Rose, speaking for all America as he queries the powerful and the famous across the spectrum of influence and opinion. When it comes to speaking truth to power and ridiculing those who would attempt to mask the truth with fanciful deception, no one does it better than Jon Stewart. In the media business today it is indeed a Mad Mad World and Jon Stewart is one of its principal architects and truth seekers, he is indeed as Newsweek said ‘Seriously Funny’
- The younger generation of Americans has chosen Jon Stewart as the news and entertainment voice they trust the most to tell them what is really going on, in a way they can understand and appreciate. While the older folks may be willing to countenance the likes of CNN, Fox and MSNBC as sources of useful information, their juniors see right through the deception and promotion going on in these sources. Ditto with ABC, CBS and NBC.
- In an America fighting undeclared wars in a handful of places around the world for over a decade with its gold and its blood being spilled willy nilly, young Americans are cynical about what is going on. They do not trust big government, big business and a national media that profit from it all to the detriment of the general public. So Jon Stewart, with his clever jokes and clear analysis, is a natural choice to help them penetrate the vale of misinformation they are being fed on a daily basis.
- While the cost of a college education continues to soar, along with the student indebtedness it creates, good jobs and high pay continue to be less available to the younger generation. All the while military costs, Social Security & Medicare, medical and other government programs are being loaded more and more onto the backs of the younger population as it comes of age; at a time of diminishing prospects. Here a (left leaning) Jon Stewart can make jokes about the hypocrisy of the wealthy more conservative class that seeks to unfairly guide the economic and political system in its favor.
- For Jon Stewart, the gifted satirist, it seemed like a perfect storm for him, as a time to take center stage – and so he has. To be among the highest paid talk show persons in America with earnings of $25-$30 million a year, may be a bit awkward for him as a major voice for the young, socially conscious class, who seek a fair playing field in America. Yet few would doubt Jon’s sincerity or honesty in his role as a spokesman for and of the people.
- Jon Stewart was born in New York City and grew up in New Jersey where he attended Lawrence High School prior to graduating from William & Mary College in Virginia.
- His was a more or less ordinary middle class upbringing in a middleclass broken home of Jewish ethnicity in suburban New Jersey. He played on his college soccer team, focused mostly on what interested him like socialism and participated in the social and drug scene at W&M – nothing extraordinary about any of that. Just a funny man with a sharp social consciousness.
- Some years working in human services, college administration, coaching, bartending and other venues gave Jon Stewart a fine grounding in the human condition in America – from the everyman point of view. He also got to witness how those in positions of power and trust may have tended at times to game the system. Jon became more sensitive to the needs of people as a result of his itinerant journey from college graduate to working Joe in his late twenties, still looking for a major role in life and media.
- All the while as an up and coming stand up comic learning his trade in New York, from modest appearance to string at The Comedy Cellar, Jon got to hone his natural skill at satire and to develop the breath of his comedic style. He also began his writing career.and on occasion performed on Comedy Central TV and elsewhere with mixed success.
- Over the next few years, with appearances on the David Letterman show and the like, he began to really get noticed and gain a following. This led to the Jon Stewart Show on MTV, which was a success for several years before being replaced, in part due to occupying a bad late night time slot. More career bumps and grinds followed. All the while Jon continued to earn credits as a master comic writer and performer of note.
- In 1999 the thirty seven year old Jon Stewart, now a polished act with the full set of credentials and scars to prove it, got his big break. With a mindful of schticks and opinions and lots to say about life, media, politics and the arts, Jon became the new host of The Daily Show on Comedy Central – a media platform he built to enormous success over the next sixteen years.
- From this stage Jon did much to promote honest discourse in public life. He was at times unmerciful in his poking fun and ridicule at Fox, CNN and MSNBC as purveyors of distortion, false truths and outright lies to the American people. On most occasions he more than held his own in probing conversation and fun with politicians, writers, world leaders and opinion makers who chose in droves to appear on his show.
- Of course Jon Stewart had a unfair advantage over his honored guests, from the left and the right of American life, as 1) he was usually prepared with well researched facts and opinions, and 2) when needed he could claim to only be a jester; to mask his sharp satire and provocative criticism under the cover of a TV comic on a ‘false news’ show.. This duality he achieved with masterful perfection. His more mature viewers may have noticed this legerdemain double standard, while the young people, who made up the bulk of his audience, took it all in as a fair play fun muckraking to do so.
- After sixteen years Jon Steward chose to leave The Daily Show at the height of its enormous popularity – as a true success and bona fide TV star. He has done a remarkable job on The Daily Show. He has changed media and TV in an important manner by flummoxing the media establishment chiefs that usually pander to big government and big corporate power while offering a new way forward.. He has achieved all of this with fresh methods, good entertainment and an honest approach to the younger demographic; the part of the population that is elsewhere and otherwise leaving TV viewing in droves.
- As a very busy full time TV host on a daily show Stewart is also a happy married man helping to raise two children, Nathan and Maggie Rose. Jon met and married his wife Lyn McShane soon after he started hosting The Daily Show, so she knew what he was up to. Somehow he has managed both a busy media career and his growing family with much care and little time..
- Jon is a real Jersey guy who loves the scene, the dialect, the lifestyle, the music and the false bravado of the ‘tough is good stuff’ style and diction of ‘the neighborhood’. He loves the Shore and the music scene of Jersey, as in Bruce Springsteen et al. In that sense he still is connected to his old neighborhood and the old ways.
- All the while the Jon Stewart the rest of us enjoy so much, whether or not we agree with his politics, is now a famous TV show host, political satirist, writer, producer and director and man of the world. He is Lenny Bruce without the biting anger and drugs but with the discontent in what is wrong with our social, political and economic life and the greater world order. He means to work hard to make a difference and on occasion he has done so.
- His books including America – A Citizen’s Guide to Inaction and Earth – A visitor’s Guide to the Human Race have won him best seller honors and much respect. His film Rosewater about life in today’s Iran put his dedication, energy and courage on display on the greater world stage. Pretty good for a Jersey boy!
- The Daily Show has helped to give a major leg up to many a new star during Jon Stewart’s tenure including the brilliant TV personality Stephen Colbert,the fine actor Steve Carell and the wonderful comic John Oliver. These stars and others represent the new vanguard of leading TV personalities and in many ways a new style and mode of communicating with the public.
- Over these years Jon Stewart has received many honors and awards that recognize his achievements, including nineteen Emmys as writer or producer of the Daily Show. A greater recognition still is how many of the most famous and powerful people of the nation of all political, social and religious persuasions have chosen to appear on his show.
- While Jon Stewart has been quick to skewer the leading Republicans and their misdeeds, he has not spared his sharp tongue and criticism from President Obama or former Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats for their many and ongoing failures of leadership or vision. All these miscreants or honest fools carry the honored scars of having sparred with the brilliant and sharp witted Stewart. This is noteworthy as the Daily Show has been one of the very best places where a broad spectrum of opinion is honestly discussed and put on display in modern American life.
- As a vigorous man in his early fifties Jon has a long way to go on the public stage in his career. He is sure to do so with his usual imagination, style and energy. This is a personal celebrity legacy portrait with many more offerings to honor in the future. As the poet Robert Burns described it ‘A Man’s A Man for All That..’