Each month I give my verdict on who has shown the world the strongest and most attractive brand. My latest personal brand of the month goes to…
From his “fake news” desk at The Daily Show, Jon Stewart unfailingly delivered laser-sharp wit in response to hypocrisy in politics and the media four nights nearly every week for sixteen years. Now that’s commitment. That’s also talent…a talent that largely stems from what I consider a high level of Emotional Intelligence (EQ).
As mentioned in our previous posts, individuals with high EQ are the star performers of their industry. Their personal brand is one that is memorable and elicits a strong, positive emotional association. We certainly saw this with Stewart, who quickly rose from funny man to the “last honest news anchor” and heroic agent for change.
It all began on January 11, 1999, when he made his début as The Daily Show’s host, replacing Craig Kilborn. On any given night, his comedic talent could be seen in his vaudeville-esque reactions to often-controversial video clips of cable or network news. Stewart’s unique brand of comedy provided us with a cathartic lens in which to view challenging issues.
But it was his interpersonal style with the audience and his guests where his EQ made the most impact. His talent for listening, ability to empathize and gift for observation often shined through during interviews ranging from George Clooney to Barak Obama. He walked the tricky line of being a “centrist” interviewer, but his stance was often more “No-B.S.” than it was political. He wore his values on his sleeve and you knew what he stood for. I had the privilege of experiencing this first-hand as an audience member in New York many years ago. Being in The Daily Show studio, in his presence, was electric.
He also wasn’t afraid to show his emotional side (again, a quality of high EQ). Most memorably, the day the show returned to the air after the 9/11 attacks, Stewart began with a raw, heartfelt address, apologizing for subjecting viewers to “an overwrought speech of a shaken host”, explaining that he and the staff needed to return to the air “for ourselves, so that we can drain whatever abscess there is in our hearts so we can move on to the business of making you laugh.” As a New Yorker living in Manhattan during 9/11, I never felt more connected to a TV personality.During his 16-year tenure, Stewart propelled The Daily Show to impressive heights, resulting in his eighteen Emmy Awards. He became a personality in his own right, hosting the 78th and 80th Academy Awards. He co-authored best-seller America (The Book): A Citizen’s Guide to Democracy Inaction (2004) and Earth (The Book): A Visitor’s Guide to the Human Race (2010). More recently, he tried on the director’s hat for size with the film Rosewater (2014).
Stewart’s final episode of The Daily Show aired on August 6, 2015.
In this Brand of the Month, I salute the incomparable Jon Stewart, for an amazing 16 years of The Daily Show, and his remarkable ability to engage with his guests and audience in a meaningful, authentic and powerful way.