Jewish Journal


July 7, 2009

Jon Stewart: Hebrew prophet?



Most people know Jon Stewart, host of “The Daily Show,” is a Hebrew. But did you also know he is a prophet of God?

That’s what the Rev. Jim Wallis, the liberal evangelical and founder of the magazine Sojourners, implies in this interview:

Jim Wallis: The Hebrew prophets often use humor, satire, and truth-telling to get their message across, and I feel you do a combination of all three. How conscious are you of this, and are you trying to make social change happen?

Jon Stewart: It may be true that the Hebrew prophets used humor in that regard, to create social change, but it was also used by Borscht Belt social directors. We’ve got a lot more in common with them than the prophets. Everyone here has a lot of respect for activists and an appreciation for what it takes to be an activist. For most of us, writing jokes, playing a little Guitar Hero in the afternoon, and calling it a day seems to be the way to go. Because we’re in the public eye, maybe people project onto us their desires for that type of activism coming from us, but just knowing the process here as I do, our show is maybe the antithesis of activism, and that is a relatively selfish pursuit. The targets we choose, the way we go about it—it’s got more of a personal venting aspect than a socially conscious aspect.

But you do provide a perspective.

It’s definitely a perspective in the way that an editorial cartoonist might provide a perspective. We provide a different way of framing things, but it is [different from] the framing devices used by politicians. Their aim isn’t the framing device; that’s merely a method to get to a goal. For us, that is the goal. Some nights we get the recipe right, some nights we don’t, some nights it’s too strident, some nights too silly, some nights it’s juvenile, but our goal is to make ourselves proud of the product in terms of how we crafted it, the jokes we came up with, that sort of thing.


But you take on serious things. I preached a sermon at the Washington National Cathedral and talked about you—it was right after Jim Cramer appeared on your show. The scripture for that day was the text of Jesus overturning the tables of the money changers in the temple.

But see, that’s the thing. [Jesus] only had to do one show. We have to do four a week!

(laughing) But I likened your interview with Cramer as a modern enactment of that parable—you were overturning the money changers.

Gee, I hope it ends better for me.

The interview contains a lot more, including Stewart talking about how religion doesn’t have a monopoly on religion. Read it here.

To be sure, I made a similar comparison in my story for The Jewish Journal about Jews being scapegoated for the financial crisis, though the biblical connection wasn’t as clear. And, coincidentally, the point of reference was Jim Cramer’s appearance:

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