From The Daily Show Host to Broccoli Lover: A Conversation with Jon Stewart

Comedian Jon Stewart came to Monmouth University’s Pollak Theatre to moderate a panel after a screening of the documentary The Game Changers last Thursday, Nov. 7. The film follows James Wilks, a defense trainer and retired UFC fighter, who discovered the positive impact of switching to a plant-based diet. Prior to the screening, Stewart spoke with the media on the importance of the film and how he has incorporated a plant-based diet into his lifestyle.

Stewart first spoke with Titus Falodun of New Jersey News Network (NJNN) on how he discovered the film and lifestyle to which he credited his wife, Tracey. “She’s been very involved with the idea of eating better for different reasons whether it be health, animal welfare, or the environment. She ended up doing an immersion with Rip Esselstyn (a dietician in the film)’s Engine 2 Program and that got us into this world where we discovered [Wilks] and the film Game Changers, which is an incredible look into how plant-based eating wasn’t considered as masculine,” Stewart said.

Stewart admitted that although plant-based does not sound like the manliest diet, the film featured tough guys who “could beat all of us up.”

The conversation switched to why Stewart decided to make the big change in his life when he told NJNN, “I don’t know if you see the healthy glow in my skin right now, but it wasn’t always this way. I was ashen, bloated, smoked a lot, [and] did not live properly, but I’ve been turned around by broccoli.”

Stewart continued, “As you get older and more aware in the world and of your body, it just makes sense to be informed and smart. When I think about the issues I talk about, I very much want to be informed as to the most current thinking scientifically, politically, philosophically, and what you do to your body should be no different. You should be informed and well versed in what is positive and what is negative. That journey has led us to this.”

The lifestyle change was not an easy walk in the broccoli fields for Stewart. He told The Outlook, “I was a vegetarian for a while. In the first week we did it, Tracey had went to an immersion program where they really talked to the science of it and they help you set your feet to it because the world is not set up that way. It’s moving in that direction, but it’s a concerted effort to begin it,” Stewart said.

He continued, “You have to detox a little bit. Then I kind of was not sure about everything and about a week later, I remember thinking, ‘I am filled with a weird feeling,’ and it turned out to be energy, which I had not had before. It felt good; you just feel better. I don’t know how to describe it,” Stewart concluded.

While Stewart has made a change for the better in his diet, his children have yet to make the leap. Stewart wittily told The Outlook, “We haven’t spoken to our kids in quite some time.”

Stewart then switched gears and acknowledged that eating is a personal choice for everyone and each person approaches their diet differently. Considering this, he respects different opinions and does not expect everyone to conform to his diet.

For his children, Stewart said, “They are still at that formative age where they’re figuring out who they are and what they are, and I’d rather they focus on those things and not lowering their cholesterol.”

Stewart assured us, “They’re not on a lard-based diet, so I assume it’s okay.”

On criticism toward the film for those who feel that the rich are telling us how to live, Stewart told NJNN, “I didn’t know that’s what people were saying! But I will say this: I’m not telling you that, you do what you want.”

He continued, “I didn’t just wake up and think, ‘You should eat broccoli.’ By the way, I eat rice and beans everyday, there’s nothing cheaper than eating this way. This is a healthy and economically accessible way to eat.

Stewart concluded on the topic with, “This isn’t about elitism or going to stores where you get a certain fruit from the Peruvian forest that has to be polished; this is how agrarian societies developed. Meat is more expensive than vegetables.”

In a final question on the tense world of politics and comedy, Stewart told NJNN, “You say what is your right to say and they say what is their right to say; it’s called conversation and we should do more of it.”

Stewart is known for hosting the hit Comedy Central nightly satire news program The Daily Show from 1999 to 2015. He recently gave a powerful speech to congress fighting for the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund.  

PHOTO COURTESY of Jeri Houseworth