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Jon Stewart

November 14, 2008

Amid deafening laughter and applause, "The Daily Show" host Jon Stewart performed to a capacity crowd as the 16th guest in the Sacerdote Series, Great Names at Hamilton, on Nov. 14. Stewart showed he had done his homework on Hamilton, making reference to such topics as the Hamilton-Colgate rivalry and the Spectator.

Every topic was fair game for the Emmy and Peabody Award-winning Comedy Central comedian. Stewart poked fun at Hamilton's campus, asking "Is this campus supposed to look like the set of a murder mystery?" Rural Central New York was a target, when he commented that on his ride to Clinton, "I didn't see much I couldn't milk."

Stewart took great delight in Al Ham the pig. After joking about the Continental as a mascot, Al Ham made an appearance in the crowd. "I'm assuming this is a something from a local supermarket,?" Stewart asked, adding that a "pig in a tri-cornered hat seems to indicate an identity crisis."

Stewart commented on George Bush, describing his press conferences as "as a sixth grader giving a book report on a book he hasn't read." His other material came at the expense of Dick Cheney, the Boy Scouts, homophobes and Sarah Palin.

Since arriving in 1999, Stewart and "The Daily Show" have received 24 Emmy® Award nominations and won 10 times. These include winning for Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music or Comedy Program as well as Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Series for the past five consecutive years (2003-2007). In 2001, "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" also received the prestigious Peabody® Award for excellence in its "Indecision 2000" campaign coverage and again in 2005 for "Indecision 2004."

Lisa Magnarelli, director of student activities and coordinator of Great Names, said Stewart has been atop the Great Names wish list for three years. Two surveys of the campus population both indicated Stewart as the overwhelming choice of who students, faculty and staff most wanted to see.

Some student reactions:

So I'm pretty sure that Jon Stewart was the reason why the weather was so lovely yesterday. His stand-up only confirmed to me that he is indeed a shining, glorious beacon of hope and deliverance. I'm reminded of when Joan Stewart said something in her introduction about the social importance of satire. I think Jon Stewart's following commentary on hot-button issues emphasized that notion. He's just a comedian, yes, but in an age when entertainers and other media hold such a grip on the American psyche, I believe Stewart plays an influential role as a cultural icon. Yesterday he made us smile but he also made us think. When I discussed his routine with friends after the show, we didn't talk so much about the jokes themselves as we did about the issues he raised. With wit and without hesitation, Stewart exposed a lot of the figurative diseases -- prejudice, ignorance, divisiveness -- that plague our society today. And in doing so, he proved that "laughter is the best medicine."
-- Alex Pure '12

... What's great about Stewart's commentary is that while it may be rooted in a critical observation, he highlights the absurdity of many existing political conflicts. Regardless of where you stand on the issues of gay marriage or religion, it's likely that your opinion is subject to satire. Through his jokes, he asks the audience to recognize that a difference in views on these matters is not the travesty it is portrayed to be: the fact that some arguments are won and others lost, or that one person may subscribe to different values or traditions, is simply a part of life. In most cases, these differences have no harmful effects; on the contrary, they're what makes life interesting and lends it some humor. 

Over the past eight months, students have been fed the idea that the country is hopelessly divided, that holding one belief is a direct attack on an opposing side's. With this view, it's difficult to have faith in our ability to resolve the tensions within our nation; if every action or statement implies conflict and an allegiance to one side or another, how are we supposed to feel as though we're working together? How will we ever believe we are progressing? Stewart's answer is to encourage us to laugh at the differences that make us unique, that make us human. His message is that most points of contention may factor into our individuality, but they don't have a grand effect on society as a whole, so why destroy relationships or communication lines in the process of defending them? He proposes that we save the solemnity for the few grave issues we encounter, and embrace the humor in the largely irrelevant issues that divide us. After a long, antagonistic campaign season, that message was a welcome relief.
-- by Sarah Caney '09

Jon Stewart's lecture Friday night struck me as hilarious, heart-warming, and sometimes even inspiring.  I don't watch political satire too often – and to be honest, I was skeptical about this Great Names Speaker. I was afraid his speech would become vulgar or senseless. However, Stewart surpassed my expectations through his effective balance of crude language with audience appreciation. For the first time in a long while, the Great Names speaker has catered to the specific needs of the students at Hamilton, and while some may view his cynicism as offensive, I understand that this enhanced his performance. It fueled a stronger connection with his listeners, who were open-minded enough to laugh with him and see the world through a sardonic eye. Sometimes this is the best way to look at it.

I thought Stewart's topics on parenting and school violence were the most touching. He asked the audience why instead of taking teenagers on field trips to museums or art galleries, we can't take them to high school reunions? Then they would perhaps realize that high school doesn't last forever, and while the pains endured during this time are indeed rough, there is hope ahead.
-- by Allison Eck '12

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