A prolific biographer (Stephen King and Colbert are among her subjects) returns with a good-news/bad-news account of the career of the host of the Daily Show.
Rogak’s endnotes (One Big Happy Family: Heartwarming Stories of Animals Caring for One Another, 2013, etc.) indicate that virtually all of her many quotations come from previously published sources (she does mention a few phone interviews, though not with Stewart himself), so there’s kind of a highly competent term-paper feel throughout her breezy narrative. She begins by calling Stewart (born Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz in 1962) “a bundle of walking contradictions”—the principal one being the contrast between his very popular public self and his intensely private life. Those who know Stewart only in his current capacity will be surprised to learn about his chops as a high school trumpet player and his talent in soccer (he played for the College of William and Mary). Readers won’t be surprised to learn that he was a joker throughout his life; he was named the senior with the best sense of humor in his high school. Rogak follows his early struggles to become a professional comedian (his first appearance was less than auspicious) and his steady rise through the ranks of his competition (which included Ray Romano, Chris Rock and Louis C.K.), his early experiences on TV, his near misses for prestigious jobs, his arrival in 1999 at the Daily Show and its ensuing steady success. In the early chapters, the author is highly flattering; later, she quotes some tough things about Stewart from former employees who talk about the harsh work environment, Stewart’s temper and his failures to include many women on the staff. She also rehashes his media battles with Crossfire and Mad Money and mentions those who have left his show to succeed elsewhere (Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert). Rogak unearths just a bit about his personal life—a quiet, happy marriage and fatherhood.
In the forest of quotations, Stewart still often eludes his pursuer.