LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Talk show host Jon Stewart was crowned the most influential man of 2010 on Tuesday, heading a list of 49 men who all swayed public opinion and were described as rule-breakers to some degree in a time of recession.
Stewart, who will host President Barack Obama on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" this week before holding a "Rally to Restore Sanity" at the weekend, claimed the No. 1 spot in an annual survey of about 500,000 readers of AskMen (www.askmen.com), a men's lifestyle website.
He was followed by Microsoft’s Bill Gates while Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of social networking site Facebook, came in third place. Apple co-founder and chief executive officer Steve Jobs came fourth.
“We noticed the rule-breaking trend because it spans a lot of industries,” James Bassil, editor-in-chief of AskMen, told Reuters.
He said this extended to people like musician Kanye West who ranked fifth, and actor James Franco at seventh, who proved he was more than just a movie star by enrolling in graduate programs and writing a book.
Number 48 on the list was Steven Slater, the JetBlue flight attendant who stormed off his job with some profanities and a dramatic exit down an inflated emergency chute, winning widespread admiration.
This month Slater, 38, pleaded guilty to two counts of criminal mischief and was ordered to undergo a year-long mental health program and receive alcohol and substance abuse counseling.
“In the list last year we were looking more at guys who were players in the industry or were perceived as players, like (U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman) Ben Bernanke,” said Bassil.
“Guys are open to the idea of rejecting the status quo in some ways. They’ve kind of come to more admire these dudes who took it upon themselves to break out on their own and discover success on their own terms.”
Last year’s list was headed by the character Don Draper from the Emmy-winning drama “Mad Men” who is played by actor Jon Hamm, followed by track star Usain Bolt.
This attitude in 2010 could well be due to the recession and lagging recovery, Bassil added.
“The terms that were dictated to us previously were terms such as ‘work hard’ and ‘show up on time’ and everything will be okay. That’s all been kind of proven to be a failure,” he said.
One notable absence this year was professional golfer Tiger Woods, whose private life unraveled after allegations of infidelity late last year set off a months-long sex scandal. He eventually confessed to infidelity and was divorced from his wife, Elin Nordgren, in August.
By contrast, talk show host David Letterman came in at 39 despite his on-air revelations about his affairs followed by an apology to his wife.
“Guys obviously preferred David Letterman’s response which was to be frank and sincere and ‘fess up in the most public form possible rather than the route that Tiger Woods took, which was to try to hide it until it blew up in his face,” Bassil said.
U.S. President Barack Obama fell to 21st place from the top five last year.
Reporting by Elaine Lies, editing by Belinda Goldsmith