"I'm not an activist, I'm a comedian."

Photo by Rick Kern/Getty Images.


For 16 years, Jon Stewart maintained that his only job is making people laugh. As for real-world influence? Well. As far as he's concerned, we're likely just imagining it.

For the most part, he's been right. Despite producing some of the most hilariously incisive television ever committed to air, "The Daily Show" is just a comedy show at the end of the day. And Jon Stewart was just the comedian who hosts it.

Mostly. But not always.

So here are six times something he said or did on TV actually made an impact in the world.

'Cause he's right. Mostly, he didn't change stuff. But the few times he actually did? Those moments were pretty great.

1. That time he got a terrible TV show cancelled

Thanks to a million breathless social media headlines, these days it has become cliché to say, "Jon Stewart destroyed X," or "Jon Stewart annihilated Y," or "Jon Stewart drop-kicked Z into the center of the sun."

But sometimes hyperbolic clichés are clichés for a reason.

And in this particular case, Jon Stewart actually, legitimately, for real destroyed CNN's "Crossfire."

If you weren't alive or paying attention in 2004, it's hard to express just how bad "Crossfire" was. But, oh, was it bad.

In the second year of a war fought under ever-thinner pretenses, in the midst of perhaps the most important election of the 21st Century, the signature show on America's "Most Trusted Name in News" was entirely devoted to pundits screaming at each other about which candidate looked lamer windsurfing.

And then, on October 15 of that year, just a few weeks before the election, Stewart appeared on "Crossfire." He was ostensibly there to promote his book, but instead, he spent nearly 15 minutes berating hosts Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson for cheapening the public discourse, letting themselves be rolled by politicians, and generally "hurting America."

"Crossfire" never recovered. Two-and-a-half months later, it was off the air. And then-CNN president Jonathan Klein straight-up told The New York Times that Jon Stewart's critique was a big reason why. The network subsequently tried to reboot the show with new hosts in 2013. Predictably, it failed miserably.

And America breathed a sigh of relief.

2. That time he got the U.S. government to pay health care costs for 9/11 first responders

9/11 marked a turning point for "The Daily Show" and Stewart, who, like many Americans, was visibly, personally shaken by the events of that day. It marked the show's sudden shift away from goofball comedy into a venue for the funniest, sharpest political commentary on TV.

As a result, in 2010, when Congress floated a bill to provide health care to 9/11 first responders, Stewart was plenty interested.

Like many others, he figured passing the bill would be a no-brainer.

Like many others, he was wrong.

Republicans refused to support the bill because paying for the program required increasing taxes on foreign corporations, and then, when their hand was forced, they tried to amend it to exclude undocumented immigrants.

Democrats refused to bring the bill to a traditional up-or-down vote, for fear that voting down the Republicans' undocumented immigrant amendment would make them look soft on immigration.

It was a stunning display of political cravenness. And a Stewart let them have it.

Somehow, some way, his rant flipped a light on somewhere in Congress. About a month later, the bill passed the House.

Then, when it looked like it was on track to be filibustered in the Senate, Stewart devoted his entire last show of the year to the bill. He even convened a panel of 9/11 first responders who, predictably, savaged Congress for its inaction.

The bill passed the Senate just a few days later.

Ultimately, you could produce a long list of advocates, political leaders, and others who were responsible in some part for the bill's success.

But according to many of its most fervent supporters, Stewart's unyielding support was the real game changer.

3. That time he ridiculed Democrats for "taking advice from the opposing team's coaching staff"

After Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown was elected to Senator Ted Kennedy's old seat in a 2010 special election, the Democrats lost their supermajority in the Senate. They were in the middle of the initial debates around Obamacare, and without the supermajority, the Democrats feared the Republicans would filibuster the health care bill.

The Democrats were in — to use a bit of obscure political terminology — full-on freak-out mode. And, right on cue, their helpful Republican pals came out in full force to tell them how they could do better in the next election.

Specifically, "move to the center" and forget about their silly little health care plan, as well as a few of their other priorities.

While Democrats rushed to show how grateful they were for the advice by announcing their intent to water down their agenda, and possibly even give up on Obamacare, Stewart used the opportunity to politely point out that maybe — just maybe — the Republicans didn't exactly have the Democrats' best interests at heart.

Sort of, at least. What he actually said was: "Don't you get what the Republicans are doing? They're f**king with you."

Like many past "Daily Show" segments, Stewart's comments seemed to fly under the radar. But according to a report in Politico, the White House was actually paying attention and felt appropriately shamed:

"[Obama advisor Austan] Goolsbee said he would often wince at Stewart's assaults on the Obama White House and Capitol Hill Democrats. He recalled one particularly tough January 2010 episode in which Stewart used a clip from the 1980s TV show 'The Wonder Years' to question why Democrats ever expected Republicans to negotiate in good faith on issues from climate change to taxes to financial reform. 'You're just cringing,' Goolsbee said. 'Oh God. I think the main thing that you're hoping is, you're hoping in your heart of hearts he's not right.'"

At the end of the day, they took Stewart's advice. Congressional Democrats stood firm and Obamacare passed.

And judging by the mounting quantity of IDGAF moments in Obama's second term, it seems like they're continuing to follow his advice.

It appears to be working out pretty well for them, too.

4. That time he made it much easier for veterans who live in rural areas to see a doctor

By late 2014, wait times at VA hospitals had become unbearable for many veterans. In order to help rectify this, Congress instituted the Veteran's Choice program, which allowed veterans to see doctors at non-VA hospitals. The catch? In order to be eligible, veterans either had to demonstrate that they had waited at least 30 days for care or live at least 40 miles "as the crow flies," away from the nearest VA facility, rather than 40 miles actual driving distance.

As a result, many veterans who should have been covered by the program weren't. And the most infuriating part? It was specifically designed that way to save money. Or, as Stewart put it, "dicking over veterans isn't a bug of the program, it's a feature of the program."

The very next day after "The Daily Show" segment aired, the VA adjusted the rule from imaginary crow distance back to driving distance, doubling the number of veterans who could use Veteran's Choice.

As usual, Stewart was skeptical that his segment led to the change, but considering the hotness of the fire he spit, it's more than a little bit likely that it had an impact.

5. Those times he joked, sang, and danced to raise money for people with autism

In addition to his gig as chief riffer on quick-cut cable news montages on "The Daily Show," Stewart is also the frequent host of "Night of Too Many Stars," a fundraiser that benefits New York Collaborates for Autism. According to Comedy Central, since it began in 2006, the event has raised over $18 million for adults and children with autism.

Not only is the program good for the Earth, it's also entertaining as hell, thanks in no small part to Stewart's involvement.

Example: This near-perfect musical moment from 2010, featuring Stewart and two obscure comedians from the early days of "The Daily Show" wearing pilot hats and starting a new dance craze.

6. That time he got more than 200,000 people to stand outside for hours in Washington, D.C., and listen appreciatively to Kid Rock

"The Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear" was kind of a ludicrous idea, in retrospect. Gathering a massive group of people on the Washington Mall to unite behind the cause of civility and calming down? To parody something Glenn Beck did? Five years later, it's kind of hard to imagine how it all came together.

But for three hours in 2010, it all made so much sense.

There have been criticisms of the rally, for sure: for being an exercise in narcissism, for missing the big picture, and for being tantamount to telling people not to care. And those criticisms are all valid — to some extent.

But in a certain sense, the rally was peak Jon Stewart. An absurd, hilarious, joyful, tearful spectacle devoted to us all getting along.

What could be wrong with that?

Especially for D.C.'s food truck operators, who undoubtedly raked it in all afternoon.

Images courtesy of Letters of Love
True

When Grace Berbig was 7 years old, her mom was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues. Being so young, Grace didn’t know what cancer was or why her mother was suddenly living in the hospital. But she did know this: that while her mom was in the hospital, she would always be assured that her family was thinking of her, supporting her and loving her every step of her journey.

Nearly every day, Grace and her two younger sisters would hand-make cards and fill them with drawings and messages of love, which their mother would hang all over the walls of her hospital room. These cherished letters brought immeasurable peace and joy to their mom during her sickness. Sadly, when Grace was just 10 years old, her mother lost her battle with cancer.“

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Losing my mom put the world in a completely different perspective for me,” Grace says. “I realized that you never know when someone could leave you, so you have to love the people you love with your whole heart, every day.”

Grace’s father was instrumental in helping in the healing process of his daughters. “I distinctly remember my dad constantly reminding my two little sisters, Bella and Sophie, and I that happiness is a choice, and it was now our job to turn this heartbreaking event in our life into something positive.”

When she got to high school, Grace became involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and a handful of other organizations. But she never felt like she was doing enough.

“I wanted to create an opportunity for people to help beyond donating money, and one that anyone could be a part of, no matter their financial status.”

In October 2018, Grace started Letters of Love, a club at her high school in Long Lake, Minnesota, to emotionally support children battling cancer and other serious illnesses through letter-writing and craft-making.


Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Much to her surprise, more than 100 students showed up for the first club meeting. From then on, Letters of Love grew so fast that during her senior year in high school, Grace had to start a GoFundMe to help cover the cost of card-making materials.

Speaking about her nonprofit today, Grace says, “I can’t find enough words to explain how blessed I feel to have this organization. Beyond the amount of kids and families we are able to support, it allows me to feel so much closer and more connected to my mom.”

Since its inception, Letters of Love has grown to more than 25 clubs with more than 1,000 members providing emotional support to more than 60,000 patients in children’s hospitals around the world. And in the process it has become a full-time job for Grace.

“I do everything from training volunteers and club ambassadors, paying bills, designing merchandise, preparing financial predictions and overviews, applying for grants, to going through each and every card ensuring they are appropriate to send out to hospitals.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

In addition to running Letters of Love, Grace and her small team must also contend with the emotions inherent in their line of work.

“There have been many, many tears cried,” she says. “Working to support children who are battling cancer and other serious and sometimes chronic illnesses can absolutely be extremely difficult mentally. I feel so blessed to be an organization that focuses solely on bringing joy to these children, though. We do everything we can to simply put a smile on their face, and ensure they know that they are so loved, so strong, and so supported by people all around the world.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Letters of Love has been particularly instrumental in offering emotional support to children who have been unable to see friends and family due to COVID-19. A video campaign in the summer of 2021 even saw members of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and the NHL’s Minnesota Wild offer short videos of hope and encouragement to affected children.

Grace is currently taking a gap year before she starts college so she can focus on growing Letters of Love as well as to work on various related projects, including the publication of a children’s book.

“The goal of the book is to teach children the immense impact that small acts of kindness can have, how to treat their peers who may be diagnosed with disabilities or illness, and how they are never too young to change the world,” she says.

Since she was 10, Grace has kept memories of her mother close to her, as a source of love and inspiration in her life and in the work she does with Letters of Love.

Image courtesy of Grace Berbig

“When I lost my mom, I felt like a section of my heart went with her, so ever since, I have been filling that piece with love and compassion towards others. Her smile and joy were infectious, and I try to mirror that in myself and touch people’s hearts as she did.”

For more information visit Letters of Love.

Please donate to Grace’s GoFundMe and help Letters of Love to expand, publish a children’s book and continue to reach more children in hospitals around the world.

This article originally appeared on November 11, 2015


Remember those beloved Richard Scarry books from when you were a kid?

Like a lot of people, I grew up reading them. And now, I read them to my kids.

The best!

If that doesn't ring a bell, perhaps this character from the "Busytown" series will. Classic!

Image via

Scarry was an incredibly prolific children's author and illustrator. He created over 250 books during his career. His books were loved across the world — over 100 million were sold in many languages.

But here's something you may not have known about these classics: They've been slowly changing over the years.

Don't panic! They've been changing in a good way.

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Images courtesy of AFutureSuperhero and Friends and Balance Dance Project
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The day was scorching hot, but the weather wasn’t going to stop a Star Wars Stormtrooper from handing out school supplies to a long line of eager children. “You guys don’t have anything illegal back there - any droids or anything?” the Stormtrooper asks, making sure he was safe from enemies before handing over a colorful backpack to a smiling boy.

The man inside the costume is Yuri Williams, founder of AFutureSuperhero And Friends, a Los Angeles nonprofit that uplifts and inspires marginalized people with small acts of kindness.

Yuri’s organization is one of four inaugural grant winners from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, a joint initiative between Upworthy and GoFundMe that celebrates kindness and everyday actions inspired by the best of humanity. This year, the Upworthy Kindness Fund is giving $100,000 to grassroots changemakers across the world.

To apply, campaign organizers simply tell Upworthy how their kindness project is making a difference. Between now and the end of 2021, each accepted individual or organization will receive $500 towards an existing GoFundMe and a shout-out on Upworthy.

Meet the first four winners:

1: Balance Dance Project: This studio aims to bring accessible dance to all in the Sacramento, CA area. Lead fundraiser Miranda Macias says many dancers spend hours a day at Balance practicing contemporary, lyrical, hip-hop, and ballet. Balance started a GoFundMe to raise money to cover tuition for dancers from low-income communities, buy dance team uniforms, and update its facility. The $500 contribution from the Kindness Fund nudged Balance closer to its $5,000 goal.

2: Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team: In Los Angeles, middle school teacher James Pike is introducing his students to the field of robotics via a Lego-building team dedicated to solving real-world problems.

James started a GoFundMe to crowdfund supplies for his students’ team ahead of the First Lego League, a school-against-school matchup that includes robotics competitions. The team, James explained, needed help to cover half the cost of the pricey $4,000 robotics kit. Thanks to help from the Upworthy Kindness Fund and the generosity of the Citizens of the World Middle School community, the team exceeded its initial fundraising goal.

Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team video update youtu.be

3: Black Fluidity Tattoo Club: Kiara Mills and Tann Parker want to fix a big problem in the tattoo industry: there are too few Black tattoo artists. To tackle the issue, the duo founded the Black Fluidity Tattoo Club to inspire and support Black tattooers. While the Brooklyn organization is open to any Black person, Kiara and Tann specifically want to encourage dark-skinned artists to train in an affirming space among people with similar identities.

To make room for newcomers, the club recently moved into a larger studio with a third station for apprentices or guest artists. Unlike a traditional fundraiser that supports the organization exclusively, Black Fluidity Tattoo Club will distribute proceeds from GoFundMe directly to emerging Black tattoo artists who are starting their own businesses. The small grants, supported in part with a $500 contribution from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, will go towards artists’ equipment, supplies, furnishings, and other start-up costs.

4: AFutureSuperhero And Friends’ “Hope For The Holidays”: Founder Yuri Williams is fundraising for a holiday trip to spread cheer to people in need across all fifty states.

Along with collaborator Rodney Smith Jr., Yuri will be handing out gifts to children, adults, and animals dressed as a Star Wars’ Stormtrooper, Spiderman, Deadpool, and other movie or comic book characters. Starting this month, the crew will be visiting children with disabilities or serious illnesses, bringing leashes and toys to animal shelters for people taking home a new pet, and spreading blessings to unhoused people—all while in superhero costume. This will be the third time Yuri and his nonprofit have taken this journey.

AFutureSuperhero started a GoFundMe in July to cover the cost of gifts as well as travel expenses like hotels and rental cars. To help the nonprofit reach its $15,000 goal, the Upworthy Kindness Fund contributed $500 towards this good cause.

Think you qualify for the fund? Tell us how you’re bringing kindness to your community. Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis from now through the end of 2021. For questions and more information, please check out our FAQ's and the Kindness Toolkit for resources on how to start your own kindness fundraiser.

Images from Denver Animal Shelter's Facebook page.

Imagine rummaging through secondhand finds in your local thrift store, only to find that some items include a bonus feline at no extra charge.

Montequlla the orange tabby had somehow not gotten the memo that he and his family were moving. As they dropped off furniture, including a big recliner chair, to the Denver Arc Thrift Store on New Year’s Eve, they had no idea that poor little Montequlla was tucked away inside.

Luckily, the staff began to notice the chair meowing.

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Emily Vondy's mom fail.

Sometimes, we have to just laugh at our failures.

“Here’s a little story to allow all the moms of littles out there to maybe feel a little better about yourself,” Emily Vondy told her 1.3 million TikTok followers.

In a TikTok video that has now garnered more than 500,000 views, Vondy shared perhaps one of the most hilarious “mom fail” stories of all time: forgetting her son’s actual birthdate.
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