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50 People Who Matter 2011 | 35. Jon Stewart

Daily male.

In 1999, Jon Stewart, an edgy New Jersey stand-up comedian, took over as host of a late-night satirical news programme called The Daily Show on the obscure cable channel Comedy Central. He transformed the show, turning it into an essential digest of news events and a scathing commentary on the state of politics and the media. His influence, especially on young Americans, cannot be denied: last year, he hosted a "Rally to Restore Sanity" - the counterpart to a Tea Party "Restoring Honour" march - which attracted roughly 215,000 people to Washington, DC. An interview slot on The Daily Show is coveted by authors, activists and political candidates (when he spoke to President Barack Obama last year, he called him "dude"). Yet Stewart is more than just a TV presenter; he is a campaigner in his own right, lending his support to a bill before Congress to pay the medical costs of 9/11 "first responders" now suffering from cancer and other illnesses.

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This article first appeared in the 26 September 2011 issue of the New Statesman, The fifty people who matter