JON STEWART: The Strange And Fascinating Career Path Of America's Most Influential Newsman

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Jon Stewart has been back in the national headlines this week following his appearance on “Fox News Sunday” over the weekend.

Even longtime fans are starting to wonder: Is he a comic or a political activist? 

Perhaps the answer can be found in his roots.

From his early stand-up, MTV shows and best-selling books, to feuding rants on “The Daily Show” and hosting a rally to “restore sanity,” Stewart’s career has crossed over various mediums to deliver his point-of-view.

We took a look at Stewart’s career from high school class clown to major media player.

1976-1980: As a student at Lawrence High School, Stewart became known as a 'funny guy'

After being bullied as a kid, Stewart began using humour to gain friends: 'I was very little, so being funny helped me have big friends.

1980:1984: During his college years at William & Mary, Stewart had aspirations to play soccer professionally

1986-1987: A move to New York City with hopes of a stand-up career

After moving to New York in 1986, Stewart finally made it to the comedy club stage the following year.

Stewart described his first-ever show to People in 1994:

'In 1987, I went to the Bitter End in the Village, because Woody Allen and Bill Cosby started there. I went on about 1 in the morning and was terrible and was yanked after five minutes. But I just kept plugging away.'

On doing stand-up comedy, Stewart told the Los Angeles Times:

'When I first got into it, it was sort of like bronco riding: 'How long can I stay up here?' But there's an excitement of being uncensored and just speaking your mind. It's like one of the most exciting raw kind of forms of (performing) because you're out there every night. In some ways it's gladiatorial. I think that's what drew me to it.'

During those first years as a comedian, Stewart shortened his name for the stage from Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz.

1991: Co-host of Comedy Central's Short Attention Span theatre. You can see the roots of The Daily Show in this cult favourite.

Watch clip below.

As The Record's Susan Howard wrote, Stewart's show was especially appealing to the MTV audience through its laid-back style:

And where else can members of the MTV Generation find a TV host who dresses sort of like them? Stewart is the only talk host who doesn't own a suit. His fashion statement is faded jeans, a T-shirt, a sweater, sneakers, or a black leather jacket.

This laid-back-dude persona is a big part of the show's sensibility. Stewart closes the show with the very cool sign-off 'Later. ' But there's also the show's unstructured manner, as freestyle as hip-hop, in stark contrast to Conan O'Brien's Harvard Lampoon humour, which may strike some as pretentious.

Watch a clip of Stewart interviewing Conan O'Brien on 'The Jon Stewart Show' below.

1998: First book is published -- 'Naked Pictures of Famous People' (Not literally. But don't deny you probably just Googled it to check.)

The collection of humorous short stories and essays reached The New York Times Best Seller List.

1998: The movie career that thankfully wasn't...Stewart plays the role of an 'Enhancement Smoker' in the movie 'Half Baked'

Video of his cameo below.

January 11, 1999: And it begins. Stewart's first episode of 'The Daily Show'

Stewart began hosting Comedy Central's 'The Daily Show' after the departure of Craig Kilborn.

Clip from Stewart's first episode below.

1999: Again, the acting. This time alongside Adam Sandler in 'Big Daddy.'

Video below.

May 10, 1999: Stewart is named one of People Magazine's '50 Most Beautiful People.' No, really.

May 16, 2004: Stewart returns to William & Mary to give the school's commencement address. Even though this was before YouTube, the text was widely passed around.

Video of Stewart's speech below.

October 2004: Taking on 'Crossfire' on 'The Daily Show.' Stewart is almost solely responsible for doing in the right-left talking heads show. It's a format CNN has yet to return to.

October 2008: Interviewing (then Presidential candidate) Barack Obama. Shortly after the election, everyone would ask Stewart whether Obama had killed comedy. Ha.

February 24, 2008: Hosting the 80th Annual Academy Awards. Much like Letterman the idea was better than the reality.

Clip below.

March 2009: Stewart's epic battle with CNBC begins with a takedown of Rick Santelli's famous Tea Party moment.

October 30, 2010: Stewart goes from comic to activist. In reaction to Glenn Beck he throws the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear on the National Mall in Washington D.C.

Video of Stewart's final speech from the rally below.

December 2010: Again veering into activist territory. In his final show of 2010, in response to Congress voting down a 9/11 First Responders bill, he has on former First Responder. It makes for an enormously emotional and effective show.

June 2011: Stewart, Anthony Weiner's onetime roommate, very publicly navigates his way through Weinergate.

June 2011: The Jon Stewart interview everyone is talking about this week...

Stewart joined Chris Wallace for a 24-minute on-air dialogue on 'Fox News Sunday.' Video and transcript here.

Now check out 17 years in the life of Erin Burnett...

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