You may know Jon Stewart best as the host of The Daily Show
and host of the 2006 Academy Awards
, but everyone's favorite fake newscaster has plenty of history behind him.
"We grew up in the good old days before kids had these damn computers and actually played outside."
Jon Stewart was born Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz in New York City, NY on November 28, 1962 to loving parents Donald, a psychiatrist, and Marian Leibowitz, a special education teacher. Young Jon grew up in Lawrence Township, NJ where he attending public schools throughout his K-12 years. After graduating third in his high school class in 1980 Jon went on to the College of William and Mary in Virginia where he majored in Chemistry for his first two years, but he later switched to Psychology. He graduated from the college in 1984 with his B.A. in Psychology.
"I like not to be good at anything, so I keep hopping around."
After college Jon went to work at a variety of odd jobs such as...
Obviously, Jon went through many jobs. He was fired from most of them, such as the Woolworth's
job when he dove into a beanbag chair
that crashed into a group of aquarium
s and caused approximately $10,000 worth of damage. He lost the bakery
job after he forgot to rinse soap out of bread barrel
s, resulting in several soapy loaves
"There are a hell of a lot of jobs that are scarier than live comedy. Like standing in the operating room when a guy's heart stops, and you're the one who has to fix it!"
Comedy was in Jon's blood (along with mosquito venom thanks to that mosquito sorting job), and in 1986 Jon moved to New York City to try his hand at standup comedy. After much toil and sweat he finally made it on stage in 1987 at a club called The Bitter End where he performed two of his four minutes of material... and bombed. It would be four months before Jon could work up the nerve to return to the stage for another try. His first regular comedy job was at another club called The Comedy Cellar where he was the last performer of the night five days a week. He played to a limited crowd (sometimes consisting of only the staff) somewhere around 2am. Despite the experience he was accumulating, Jon almost quit comedy every night for the first two years he performed. Eventually Jon began to work bigger and bigger gigs, bringing him some prestige in the comedy circuit.
Television came calling in the early 1990s when Jon was chosen by Comedy Central to host a little show on their fledgling network called Short Attention Span Theater, a program that featured snippets of other programs and comedy sketches (including Comedy Central's own Mystery Science Theater 3000). After the show was canceled Jon returned to standup until he was tapped by MTV to host their new show You Wrote It, You Watch It. The show ran for thirteen weeks and then was canceled. Out of another television job, Jon pitched an idea for his own talk show to MTV, an idea that the music network had an interest in. He became the host of The Jon Stewart Show in 1993.
"We were on about a year-and-a-half on MTV, and eight to nine months in syndication. I think I hold the record for the longest running late night talk show in syndication, hosted by a white guy. I'm very proud." (On his old MTV/Paramount show, Creative Loafing, April 1999)
The Jon Stewart Show was a 30-minute MTV-style talk show that, while critically acclaimed, never lit up the ratings. The show was bought by Paramount in 1994 and sold to syndication where it was expanded to sixty minutes. The show achieved some success in this format, but was nevertheless canceled in 1995.
Despite the numerous cancellations on his record, Miramax saw Jon as a valuable property and signed him to a three-year, six-movie deal. He also signed a deal with David Letterman's production company Worldwide Pants, although nothing ever came of that deal. Between making movies Jon worked on a book, Naked Pictures of Famous People. The book included a collection of humorous essays on a variety of topics.
After the movie deal ended Jon returned to television where he appeared in guest roles on a variety of programs (including NewsRadio where he played Matthew Brock's "twin" brother and Spin City as Michael J. Fox's character's stock broker) as well as guest hosted The Late Late Show with Tom Snyder. The guest host gig suited Jon so well, in fact, that he went on to play the guest host character on Garry Shandling's The Larry Sanders Show. As far as hosting a talk show of his own, Jon was rumored to be top choices to take over for both a retiring Tom Snyder (a spot he lost to Craig Kilborn) and a CBS-bound David Letterman (a spot he lost to Conan O'Brien). It looked like hosting a show of his own was just not in the cards for Jon...
"Because sometimes ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX NEWS, MSNBC, CNN, HEADLINE NEWS, CSPAN, and CSPAN 2 just aren't enough." (Ad for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Summer 1999)
... or was it? After Craig Kilborn departed his job as host of Comedy Central's The Daily Show, the network tapped Jon to take over as host, a job perfectly suited to Jon's comedic style and talents. Serving as anchorman with a satiric edge, Jon holds court on the show four nights a week with one week of vacation a month. Jon earns an estimated $1.5 million a year for his work and he has a contract until January 2003 at the show. Rumors about that other networks are pursuing Jon for when his contract expires, but Jon has made it clear that he is happy at Comedy Central where he has the creative freedom that the network has to offer.
Awards and Accolades
- "Best Sense of Humor," Lawrence High School Yearbook, 1980
- One of "Hot New Artists of the '90's," New York Post
- One of "People Magazine's 50 Most Beautiful People", 1999
- 2000 George Foster Peabody Award for "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart: Indecision 2000"
- "America's Best Talk Show Host," Time Magazine, July 9, 2001
- Emmy Nomination for "Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Series," as Co-Executive Producer of "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart"
- Emmy for "Outstanding Writing in a Variety, Music or Comedy Series," as one of the writers of "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart"
- "Cutest Celebrity on Show," by female staff members of celebrity edition of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire".
"You just have to keep trying to do good work, and hope that it leads to more good work. I want to look back on my career and be proud of the work, and be proud that I tried everything. Yes, I want to look back and know that I was terrible at a variety of things." (quoted in Orange County Register, July 9, 1999)