Marty Kaplin: Waiting for Sanityman: Can Jon Stewart Save America?
Waiting for Sanityman: Can Jon Stewart Save America?
By Marty Kaplin
The fate of our country won’t be decided by a politician. It will be determined by a comedian.
Not long before Jon Stewart announced his Rally to Restore Sanity, he told a New York magazine writer why he and his crew on The Daily Show would never do something like that. “We’re not activists,” he said. “Maybe the nice thing about being a comedian is never having full belief in yourself to know the answer. So you can say all this stuff, but underneath, you’re going, ‘But of course, I’m f—ing idiotic.’ It’s why we don’t lead a lot of marches.”
Waiting for Jewman
By Marty Kaplin
Jon Stewart did his show, business as usual, on Rosh Hashanah this year. That night, when his interview guest, Meghan McCain, daughter of Senator John McCain, greeted him with “Happy New Year,” Stewart looked uncharacteristically nonplussed for a nanosecond, before replying, “What? Huh? See you in Times Square tonight.”
“Culturally Jewish, but not practicing” is what it’s called on the JDate profile form. Stewart grew up in suburban New Jersey with the name Jon Stewart Liebowitz. When radio host Howard Stern asked him about his real name, Stewart answered, “Actually, it’s ‘Jewy Jewman.’ ”
It’s hard to imagine someone who identifies more strongly with New York-style Jewish shtick. He switches into Jerry Lewis’ voice and gestures at the drop of a yarmulke. Yiddish intonations take up considerable space in his comic’s toolkit, as do mentions of obscure Jewish holidays, traditional Jewish food and top hits from the Torah.
Marty Kaplan is Director of the Norman Lear Center and Professor at the USC Annenberg School
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