Comedian, TV host, actor, director, political activist
Born: November 28, 1962, in New York City
Grew Up in: Lawrenceville, New Jersey
New Jersey Hall of Fame, Class of 2015: Performing Arts
It’s no mystery why Jon Stewart has evolved from stand-up comedian to political satirist to political activist. Given his talent and his drive, he simply couldn’t help himself.
Born Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz, he was the second of four sons. His parents – a teacher mom and an energy expert dad – divorced when Stewart was 11. (Years later, Stewart adopted his middle name as his surname, but with a new spelling.) Growing up in Lawrenceville, Stewart attended Lawrence High School and continued his education at the College of William & Mary in Virginia, where he was a starter on the varsity soccer team. He graduated in 1984 with a degree in psychology.
After college, Stewart worked a series of odd jobs (from busboy to bartender), before pursuing a career in comedy. He began performing stand-up in New York, developed a reputation on the club circuit and made his TV debut in 1990 as co-host of Comedy Central‘s “Short Attention Span Theater.” He next hosted a comedy show for MTV, but his career didn’t really take off until a memorable 1992 appearance on NBC‘s “Late Night with David Letterman.”
Stewart’s own “The Jon Stewart Show” premiered on MTV in 1993. The show, a mix of celebrity interviews and sketch comedy, ran for two years. During this period, Stewart made his film debut with a small role in the 1994 comedy “Mixed Nuts,” and achieved high visibility as a frequent guest on various talk shows.
In 1999, Stewart returned to the host’s chair as anchor of “The Daily Show,” a Comedy Central program that satirized politics and pop culture. Although the news was intentionally fake, the show’s very real success made Stewart a star and established his credibility as a political influencer.
Stewart hosted “The Daily Show” almost continuously until 2015, winning 20 primetime Emmy Awards as writer or producer. The show also won Peabody Awards for its coverage of the 2000 and 2004 presidential campaigns (called “Indecision 2000” and “Indecision 2004,” respectively). Throughout his tenure, Stewart tackled major political and social issues with humor and candor and never hesitated to confront famous and powerful figures about controversial positions on matters such as race relations and gun control.
The multitalented Stewart has written numerous books, including “Naked Pictures of Famous People,” a 1998 collection of short stories and essays. He also has acted in and directed numerous films and produced several TV programs, winning two additional Emmys as producer of Stephen Colbert’s “The Colbert Report.” In 2006 and 2008, Stewart hosted the Academy Awards.
In 2021, Stewart returned to TV with a biweekly series for Apple TV+ titled “The Problem with Jon Stewart.” The following year, he received the Kennedy Center’s Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.
Stewart has been an effective advocate for improved health care for veterans and 9/11 responders. Since 2013, he and his wife Tracey have operated large animal sanctuaries on their Middletown and Colts Neck farms.