Most folks know I'm a big fan of Jon Stewart, so I was excited to get to read this biography about him for Shelf Awareness. My review appeared in the September 9th issue of Shelf for Readers and is appearing here today with their permission.
First line: "When Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz was born on November 28, 1962, in New York City to Donald and Marian Leibowitz toward the end of the huge postwar baby boom, he began a typical middle-class American childhood that was unremarkable for the time, and apparently very much strived for by the majority of people in the United States."
“‘We feel a frustration with the way politics are handled and the way politics are handled within the media…The appeal of doing the show is that it’s cathartic,’” says Jon Stewart about his hugely popular Daily Show that broke new ground in the world of comedy talk shows when he took the reigns in 1999.
Lisa Rogak adds to her list of biographies that include the likes of Stephen Colbert and Stephen King by highlighting Stewart’s bumpy rise to this catharsis. She touches on his family life, but Angry Optimist focuses primarily on Stewart’s career in comedy, from the side jobs that supported him, to his stand-up career, TV, movies, books and even hosting the Oscars.
Including both humorous and serious insights from colleagues, Rogak pulls back The Daily Show curtain to reveal exhausting writing schedules, dogs in the office, interns fetching food and props, and people who aren’t quite as enamored with Jon Stewart. Giving voice to his naysayers allows Rogak to explore a broader view of the “high-functioning hermit” rarely seen in public outside of work.
As Rogak retells, Stewart learned a lesson early in his career, “‘this whole life is a journey. There is no such thing as made it.’” The future is uncertain, but Stewart has undoubtedly left his signature on the world of comedy. Angry Optimist’s astute illustration of just how he accomplished that—making humor about things that matter to him—is a must not only for Jon Stewart fans, but comedy fans everywhere.
The Angry Optimist: The Life and Times of Jon Stewart is available in hardcover (ISBN: 9781250014443) from Thomas Dunne Books and as an unabridged audiobook (ISBN: 9781494555559), narrated by Cassandra Campbell, from Tantor Audio.