Some give to charity “anonymously,” secretly hoping that someone will “discover” their generosity and spread it around the internet—they wouldn’t do it themselves, of course, because that kind of thing would be gauche. Others really aren’t in it for the accolades, and labor away quietly for years on causes that the public might not be aware of at all.
That’s the case with outgoing Daily Show host Jon Stewart, who, according to a recent article in The New York Times, has been running a program to help veterans break into the entertainment industry for the past two years. Stewart has done very little to publicize the program up to this point, but, now that he is vacating his anchor’s chair and giving it to new host Trevor Noah, he’s decided to take it public in an attempt to encourage/shame other shows into doing the same.
The program takes the form of a five-week “industry boot camp” that takes place every evening, so veterans who have full-time jobs can still attend. There, participants can make the connections and learn the skills and jargon that they would otherwise attain in the internships and entry-level positions essential for getting ahead in the TV industry. (They didn’t have time for all that, you see, because they were too busy fighting a war.) Over the course of the five weeks, participants receive hands-on training in a variety of areas, from talent booking to post-production.
Among the graduates of the program are Justine Cabulong, a former Marine who served in Afghanistan and now works as a production coordinator at The Daily Show. Part of her job includes warming up the crowd by doing stand-up before tapings; in her routine, Cabulong jokes that audience members who pull out their cell phones during the show will be “detained.” She says her experience in the armed forces actually helped prepare her for the stressful world of TV, saying, “The show is high tempo; it’s pretty chaotic; you have to work together.”
It’s an opportunity that Cabulong might not have had if Stewart hadn’t taken the initiative to develop the program after being contacted by the nonprofit group American Corporate Partners. ACP matches veterans with potential employers, most of whom are corporate giants like GE, Du Pont, Boeing, and Rupert Murdoch’s NewsCorp, all of which sound like way less fun than The Daily Show. Stewart might seem like an unlikely candidate for this sort of thing, given his outspoken criticism of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—The New York Times certainly seems befuddled by it—but, if you think about it, giving veterans a voice in the entertainment industry is a way for Stewart to put his liberal money where his big mouth is. This way, not only do his critiques have the authentic input of people who were there, he can simultaneously support the troops and condemn the war. And besides, as he tells the Times, they’re “way less whiny” than most of his employees.