Jonathan “Jon” Stewart (born Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz; November 28, 1962) is an American comedian, television host, and political satirist. He is best known as host of The Daily Show, a satirical news program airing on Comedy Central.
Stewart started as a stand-up comedian, but later branched out to television, hosting Short Attention Span Theater for Comedy Central. He went on to host his own show on MTV, called The Jon Stewart Show, and then hosted another show on MTV called You Wrote It, You Watch It. He has also had several film roles as an actor.
Stewart became the host of The Daily Show on Comedy Central in early 1999. He is also a writer and co-producer of the show. After Stewart joined, The Daily Show steadily gained popularity and critical acclaim leading to his first Emmy Award in 2001.
One of the show’s most serious moments remains the September 20, 2001 show—the first show after the attacks of September 11, 2001. The show began with no introduction. Prior to this date, The Daily Show introduction included footage of a fly-in towards the World Trade Center and New York City.
However, the first nine minutes of that 2001 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 — they attacked it. This was a 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.”
Stewart himself has also gained significant acclaim as a critic of the Bush administration and of personality-driven media shows, in particular the coverage of the U.S. news media networks CNN, Fox News Channel and MSNBC.
In a televised exchange with former CNN personality 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 referred to both Carlson and co-host Paul Begala as “partisan hacks.” This exchange became one of the most widely viewed Internet videos to date, and a topic of much media discussion.
Stewart discussed the incident on The Daily Show the following Monday:
“We decided to go to this place, Crossfire, 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… 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.”
During that appearance on Crossfire, in response to further prods from Carlson to “be funny,” Stewart finally said, “No, I’m not going to be your monkey.”
In January 2005, CNN announced that it was canceling Crossfire. When asked about the cancellations, CNN/US’ incoming President, Jonathan Klein, referenced 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.”
Critics say Stewart benefits from a double standard: he critiques other news shows from the safe, removed position of his “fake news” desk. Stewart himself agrees, countering that neither his show nor his channel purports to be anything other than satire and comedy. In spite of its self-professed entertainment mandate, The Daily Show has been nominated for a number of news and journalism awards.
Stewart hosted the 78th Academy Awards and the 80th Academy Awards and is the co-author of America (The Book) which was one of the best-selling books in the U.S in 2004.