Angry Optimist: The Life and Times of Jon Stewart

Angry Optimist: The Life and Times of Jon StewartAngry Optimist: The Life and Times of Jon Stewart by Lisa Rogak
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received this book via Goodreads First Reads in exchange for an honest review.

The life and times of Jon Stewart are more than the last fifteen years of helming The Daily Show with Jon Stewart as author Lisa Rogak writes.  The unlikely rise of the short wise-cracking Jewish kid from Jersey rising to become one of the most influential, and comedic, voices of political commentary is a told expertly and without bias.

Given Stewart’s impact the last fifteen years, Rogak could have easily just given a brief synopsis of his life prior to January 1999 instead she spent the a third of the book detailing Stewart’s childhood, collegiate years, and life before and after deciding to go into comedy.  Rogak gives the reader as glimpse to Stewart as a young man that will affect how he helmed The Daily Show, including the triumphs and the many failures that he experienced throughout the 1980s and 90s.

Once Rogak gets to Stewart’s tenure on The Daily Show, instead of just detailing the next decade and a half, she shows how Stewart made the show more in his style and how he was hands on than previous host Craig Kilborn.  Throughout the last two-thirds of the book, Rogak tackles The Daily Show years not strictly chronologically but as a mixture of chronology and themes.  This approached allowed Rogak to give the reader a fuller understand of Stewart and The Daily Show as a whole.

Rogak was very evenhanded in her approach to the overall view of Stewart, mixing praise and criticism from critics and how the viewing audience has seen Stewart.  Triumphs and embarrassments are told in their detail as well has controversies surrounding the show from his interview style, to the lack of female writers, and his liberal bias.  And as Stewart seems on the verge of a major shakeup in his professional life, Rogak writes about his possible transition to films as director not actor.

Given Jon Stewart’s continued presence within media, Lisa Rogak did an wonderful job in writing about his life and career.  Although it is hard for an author not to have some bias for their subject, Rogak is able to give a balanced portrayal of Stewart in her book from accomplishments to stumbles.   I thoroughly recommend this book to anyone who wants to understand the host of The Daily Show.

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