Jon Stewart, original name Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz (born November 28, 1962, New York, New York, U.S.), U.S. comedian, writer, and director who was best known as the host (1999-2015) of the satirical television news program The Daily Show.
Stewart graduated from the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, in 1984, and then had a series of odd jobs before embarking on a career in comedy. In the late 1980s, he began performing stand-up comedy under the name Jon Stewart, and quickly became popular on the club circuit. In the early 1990s, he appeared regularly on television, and after hosting the MTV series You Wrote It, You Watch It (1992), he got his own program, The Jon Stewart Show. Featuring celebrity interviews and comedy sketches, it debuted in 1993 but lasted only two years, although it received positive reviews. Stewart, who made his theatrical debut in the 1994 film “Mixed Nuts,” also appeared in a number of films, including “Half Baked” (1998), “The Faculty” (1998) and “Big Daddy” (1999).
He returned to hosting in January 1999 when he replaced Craig Kilborn on The Daily Show, a fake news show on the Comedy Central cable network that lampooned media, politics and pop culture. With Stewart as host, the show dramatically increased its viewership. During the 2000 U.S. presidential campaign, his satirical and comprehensive “Indecision 2000” coverage – with Daily Show correspondents reporting from the rallies and national conventions – became so popular that election night viewership rivaled that of some traditional news programs. In fact, many prominent politicians, journalists, and pundits appeared on the show to discuss current affairs (and exchange jokes) with Stewart. The program also launched the careers of many of its correspondents, including Stephen Colbert, Steve Carell and Lewis Black. The Daily Show won Peabody Awards in 2000 and a number of Emmy Awards in 2004. Stewart left the show in August 2015 and was replaced by South African comedian Trevor Noah.
Stewart’s impact on the public extended beyond the reach of his shows. On October 30, 2010, Stewart and Colbert hosted the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear on the Mall in Washington, DC. The rally, which drew more than 200,000 attendees and was broadcast live on Comedy Central, was a satirical response to conservative media personality Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally the previous summer. While Stewart and Colbert’s event was primarily an ironic response to slanderous rallies on both ends of the political spectrum, it also aimed to promote civility in political discourse.
Stewart has hosted several awards ceremonies, most notably the Academy Awards in 2006 and 2008. His books include Naked Pictures of Famous People (1998) and (with the writing team of The Daily Show) the popular America (the Book): A Citizen’s Guide to Democracy Inaction (2004) and Earth (the Book): A Visitor’s Guide to Humanity (2010). The audiobook versions of the latter two titles earned Stewart and The Daily Show staff Grammy Awards.
Stewart made his directorial debut with Rosewater (2014), adapted from a treatise by journalist Maziar Bahari (played in the film by Gael García Bernal), who was arrested on espionage charges in Iran in 2009 while covering election protests there; Bahari had appeared in a Daily Show segment mocking Iranian paranoia about espionage, a fact that Iranian authorities used in part to justify his detention. Stewart next wrote and directed Irresistible (2020), a political satire about a mayoral race in a small Midwestern town; the film reunited him with Carell, who played a political consultant.
In 2021, Stewart returned to television with the talk show The Problem with Jon Stewart. The bi-weekly series, which aired on Apple TV+, combined humor with in-depth explorations of social issues. In 2022, Stewart received the Kennedy Center’s Mark Twain Award for American Humor.