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How Jon Stewart changed a Jewish generation

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03/03/2015

How Jon Stewart changed a Jewish generation photo 1

Jon Stewart

Oy vey! Comedy Central legend, Jon Stewart is leaving The Daily Show after 16 years! When I first heard the news I couldn’t believe it. I became a bit verklempt. Why was I feeling this way? Why is Jon leaving me? What am I now going to fill my need for news with? How will I get through the next election? What will replace this show on my DVR? And why am I asking so many questions?!

The last answer, I know. I am Jewish. We ask questions. It’s what we do. Since we were young we were taught to question and ask why. And that’s what Jon Stewart does every evening on his parody news show that’s won two Peabody Awards and 18 Emmys. He’s like a hip funny rabbi that makes us question ourselves, society, Republicans, Democrats, Bush, Obama, the media, and deep-dish pizza (which still rules—I live in Chicago, duh).

For a whole generation of young people, Jon Stewart has made being informed and learning about the news cool. A comedian is the voice of the people and through this satirical comedy news show, Stewart has stood up for us, taught us to question, and made sure we held ourselves (i.e. Fox, Fox News, Fox and Friends, Fox, Fox, Fox) accountable all while being funny. Do you know how many times I’ve told my mom she should watch The Daily Show to get her news?! A lot.

How Jon Stewart changed a Jewish generation photo 2

The author…on a typical Tuesday.

So many young Jewish Americans identify with Stewart. Maybe it’s because this Jew from Jersey does impressions of Jerry Lewis that remind us of Uncle Saul or maybe it’s because he grew up similar to us being surrounded by the same Jewish family values, traditions, and dysfunctional meshugas at your sister’s kid’s bris. Whatever the case, he is one of us and we just get him. When Adam Sandler sang The Chanukah Song, it made me proud to be Jewish, but Jon Stewart made me want to be a better person. He fills a void for people looking for hope. He is able to articulate what so many of us are thinking. This mensch gives us hope that there is better in the world; that the bar should be raised a little higher. He is a role model.  

As an aspiring comedian from Skokie, it’s always been a dream of mine to meet Stewart. His standup comedy is second to none and MTV’s The Jon Stewart Show (circa 1993; Netflix it!) also ruled. In 2006, the day before I left on my Birthright Israel trip, my dream came true. A good friend of mine, who is now a senior producer for The Daily Show, brought me backstage to check out the offices and meet the staff. As I was walking through the hallway, this short, silver-haired Jewish man walked up to me with a smile and introduced himself.  

“Jon Stewart,” he said. I almost didn’t recognize him because he was wearing a sweat shirt and jeans. I thought, “Where’s the suit?” Then I thought, “Who cares?! It’s Jon Stewart!” He was really nice too. Don’t you love hearing when someone you like a lot is nice? They say you’re only as good as the company you keep. The company Stewart kept included a diverse crew of clever, funny, and talented individuals, not to mention Steven Colbert and Steve Carrell.

People from different backgrounds came together to put on this awesomeness that informed, entertained, and encouraged young people to care more about the world around them and take an interest in current events. It’s like this show is setting an example for the world to follow. Stewart no doubt identifies with being Jewish, but he believes it’s more important that we all strive to be good people. And if everyone tried being the best version of themselves, this world would be a better place.

Stewart will go down as one of the most influential voices of our generation. Thank you for teaching us, guiding us, and making us young (?) adult Americans proud to be Jewish, Mr. Stewart! We look forward to your next adventure.

And now, for your moment of Zen: The Daily Show electric guitar theme song plays in the background as a monkey sitting at a news desk tries putting on big shoes.

Seth Davis is a writer, actor, and stand-up comedian who lives in Chicago. See him at Zanies, The Laugh Factory, and Twitter @sethd78, and check out his new website starting in mid March, www.sethdaviscomedy.com.

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