Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The Daily Show
The Daily Show (currently The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, also known as TDS to fans and staffers) is a half-hour satirical "fake news" program produced by and run on the Comedy Central cable television network in the United States. It is hosted by Jon Stewart, who acts as news anchor (he took over for original host Craig Kilborn in 1999). Providing news-related comedy in the tradition of Michael Moore's TV Nation, Saturday Night Live's "Weekend Update" segment, and the long-running Canadian series This Hour Has 22 Minutes, The Daily Show reports on the foibles of the real world with a satirical edge. The show has also developed a reputation as one of the sharpest political commentary shows on TV.
The program originates "from Comedy Central's world news headquarters in New York" (as is announced in the opening of each show), where Stewart is joined on-screen by a group of correspondents who provide humorous reports and commentary. The opening announcement is now less tongue-in-cheek than it once was, as The Daily Show has grown and currently airs in Canada and in abbreviated form around the globe. In addition to news stories, The Daily Show includes interviews with celebrities, semi-celebrities, and political figures. The political interviews in particular are often noted for being highly engaging, and have featured guests such as Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie, pollster John Zogby, 2004 Democratic Presidental Candidate Senator John Kerry, and former U.S. President Bill Clinton.
An uncensored version of "Indecision 2004" will be released on a three disc DVD box set on June 28, 2005 and it will include: original material from Jon Stewart and "The Daily Show's News Team," all episodes from the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, "The Bush-Kerry Debate: The Squabble in Coral Gables," "Election Night 2004: Prelude to a Recount" and highlights from throughout the 2004 Presidential Campaign .
The staff of The Daily Show won a Peabody Award for their presciently titled "Indecision 2000" coverage of the 2000 United States Presidential Election. A second Peabody was awarded for the show's "Indecision 2004" coverage four years later. In 2004, the show was honored by the Television Critics Association by winning for Outstanding Achievement in News and Information, beating out traditional news shows in the category. In 2003, both Jon and the show won TCA Awards; Jon for Individual Achievement in Comedy and the show winning for Outstanding Achievement in Comedy. In 2003 and 2004, the staff won Emmy Awards for Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Series, and for Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music or Comedy Program. The Television Critics Association granted their award for outstanding news and information programming to the show in July 2004, passing up hard news shows Frontline and Nightline. Later that year a publication by the series staff, America (The Book), was critically praised (aside from page 99), winning a nod as Book of the Year from Publishers Weekly. The audio book form won a Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album in 2005.
Episodes and timing
The show has four new episodes a week, Monday through Thursday, although the program will occasionally go on hiatus for one or two weeks at a time. It is shown at night at 11 Eastern/10 Central, a time when local television stations show their real news reports, and about half an hour before most other late-night comedy programs begin to go on the air.
The weekly four-episode run is broadcast in Canada on The Comedy Network each night at 11 PM Eastern, and on the CTV network each night at 12:05 AM Eastern/Pacific, after local news on most CTV stations. An edited version of the show, called The Daily Show—Global Edition, is run outside of the U.S. on CNN International once a week. Australian network SBS also briefly ran the edited version once a week as The Weekly Daily Show.
According to an October 7, 2003, USA Today article, the show is pulled together in this way: a researcher scans major newspapers, the Associated Press, and cable news channels, then gives possible topics to the ten writers. They meet to discuss headline material for the lead news segment. By 11:15 AM they meet with Jon Stewart, and by 12:30 PM they have come up with jokes for the day's show.
The Daily Show tapes every Monday through Thursday in studios located at 513 West 54th Street, New York City. The cast holds an afternoon rehearsal , then doors open to the public at 5:45 PM. Attendees must be 18 years of age or older, and tickets are usually required to get in. However, there are sometimes leftover seats, despite the normal practice of overbooking (distributing more tickets than seats), so additional people who don't have tickets may be allowed in. Taping of the program begins in front of the audience at 6:30 PM.
The Daily Show was originally hosted by Craig Kilborn when it premiered in 1996, but he left to take over The Late Late Show on CBS in 1999. Jon Stewart is the current host, and is noted for heading a significant shift in the way the show handled news. The early years were filled with fairly common fare for late-night programs, including Monica Lewinsky jokes and a significant amount of material that was completely fabricated.
Stewart was more interested in finding a way to process the news that he and the show staff took in on a regular basis. The juxtaposition of news stories and the reactions of the on-air talent comes from real responses that they and the show's writers have behind the scenes as they take in stories from other media sources. After a few years as host, Stewart became co-executive producer of the series.
The show's format generally begins with monologue and news headlines similar to the start of other late-night television programs. The Daily Show runs this portion for a longer period, and may include "on location" reports. However, the correspondents are usually just standing in the studio with a bluescreened backdrop. While generally no note is made of this fact, it is occasionally the subject of jokes, such as a correspondent reporting from a press base on Mars (this joke was used when the first Mars Exploration Rover landed). Introductions and on-screen graphics always label the reporters as "senior," sometimes with absurdly specific expertise. The show formerly split the news into segments known as "Headlines" and "Other News," but these titles were dropped sometime around 2003.
Stewart and company have fine-tuned a technique of intercutting with footage of political figures making speeches or statements, in which the host or correspondent can stop the action at a telling moment, and register skeptical reserve or excruciated dismay, as political clichés or dud imagery hang lifelessly in the air. The results include some of the most pointed political satire broadcast in the United States.
Following the regular news portion, there are correspondent pieces and interviews, the order of which can vary from episode to episode. Correspondent pieces involve the show's members actually traveling to a remote location to make a report or interview people important to the story. Topics can be very wide-ranging, and these segments have gained quite a bit of notoriety. Often when a Daily Show correspondent has come through a town to report on some issue, the event is noted by the local media.
Some segments occur periodically, such as "Mark Your Calendar," "Ed Helms's Digital Watch," "Back in Black" with Lewis Black, "Great Moments in Punditry As Read By Children" (small children read transcripts of contentious moments from programs like Crossfire and Hannity and Colmes), and "This Week in God." Since the early days of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, a common part of the show has been "Mess O'Potamia," focusing on the troubles in that region.
Each show ends with a "Moment of Zen" (the version on CNN International ends with the "International Moment of Zen"), which is a short, usually humorous video clip. Most of the time, it is an extended clip from one of the stories aired during the show, but sometimes it is just a strange video pulled down from the newswires.
The Daily Show as a "news source"
Television ratings show that the program generally has about one million viewers nightly, fairly good for cable television. In demographic terms, the viewership is skewed to a relatively young audience compared to other news shows. A 2004 Nielsen Media Research study commissioned by Comedy Central put the median age at 35, while, for instance, the audience of The O'Reilly Factor has a median age of 63. There is anecdotal evidence that a large chunk of TDS viewers are university students.
However, the show's writers often repeat the fact that The Daily Show is a comedy program and not a reliable news source by itself. The show does not follow the normal rules of journalistic integrity, but much of the schtick of the program involves questioning whether or not establishment television news sources in the United States, notably the cable news channels CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News Channel, are holding themselves to high journalistic standards. Also, even if one were to rely on The Daily Show for regular information, they'd be slightly out of date as the show usually covers news from the day before (due in part to the taping schedule).
The Washington Post ran an article on August 24, 2004 in which it quoted a "whining" Nightline anchor Ted Koppel, who said to his viewers in a telecast from the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston: "A lot of television viewers—more, quite frankly, than I'm comfortable with—get their news from the Comedy Channel on a program called The Daily Show."
Stewart took issue with Koppel's comment, saying Daily Show fans watch "for comedic interpretation" of the news. "To be informed," Koppel replied, refusing to budge from his position. "They actually think they're coming closer to the truth with your show." Stewart shot back: "Now that's a different thing, that's credibility, that's a different animal." Appearing on each other's shows a few weeks later, Koppel and Stewart downplayed the idea that the two had any animosity toward each other.
Interestingly, the National Annenberg Election Survey at the University of Pennsylvania ran a study of American television viewers around the same time and found that fans of The Daily Show had a more accurate idea of the facts behind the 2004 presidential election than most others. The study primarily focused on comparing the audiences of TDS with that of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and The Late Show with David Letterman, but Daily Show viewers also beat out people who primarily got their news through the national evening newscasts of ABC, CBS, and NBC and those who mostly read newspapers, while roughly matching the knowledge level of viewers who watched a considerable amount of cable TV news. The study attempted to compensate for the fact that many viewers of TDS get information from many sources including the Internet, though most analysts and show staffers prefer to think that Daily Show viewers use the show as part of their news filtering process rather than a source in itself.
Because of his increasing influence and respect, Jon Stewart was half-facetiously floated as a possible successor to Dan Rather of CBS Evening News (this is partly due to the fact that Comedy Central and CBS are both owned by media conglomerate Viacom). However, hard news is not what Stewart is about, and if such a thing were ever to happen, he would have become part of the media system that his show lampoons. Observers also note that content restrictions on terrestrial broadcasts enforced by the Federal Communications Commission in the U.S. would likely cut out much of the attraction. Still, it is considered fairly likely that commentary by Jon Stewart or other Daily Show cast members will eventually make it into short segments produced for CBS Evening News or other shows such as the venerable newsmagazine 60 Minutes.
Additionally, the Daily Show writers authored a best-selling text, America: The Book, published in September 2004. It remained a best seller even after the election, despite a decision by Wal-Mart to cancel its order because, as a spokewoman was quoted in USA Today: "We felt a majority of our customers would not be comfortable with the image" [of naked Supreme Court justices]. The book was also banned from some Mississippi public libraries for its depictions of nude United States Supreme Court Justices. The ban was later lifted after the library board received complaints.  Chapter 5 on the Judicial Branch includes obviously doctored photographs of the current justices, with their heads superimposed on appropriately aged naked bodies. On the page opposite the photographs, the reader is invited to "Restore their dignity" by covering each justice with a cutout of his or her robe.
Notable stories and events
"Are you OK?"
There have been many memorable times on the show, though a few stand out. One of the most requested clips among Daily Show fans is the opening monologue that Stewart spoke on the first new episode after the September 11, 2001 attacks. In it, he conveyed his best wishes to viewers and quickly lampooned the fact that he was one of the last TV personalities to make such a speech, saying:
- I'm sorry to do this to you. It's another entertainment show beginning with an overwrought speech of a shaken host. TV is nothing, if not redundant. … I'm sure we're getting in right under the wire before the cast of Survivor offers their insight into what to do in these situations.
Stewart reminded his audience that the United States had gone through troublesome times before, and he related a story from his youth. He said that when riots broke out after the death of Martin Luther King, Jr., the administrators of his elementary school "shut the lights off and we got to sit under our desks and we thought that was really cool and they gave us cottage cheese." He also pulled other light moments out of that dark period by saying the view had changed at his apartment:
- The view from my apartment was the World Trade Center and now it's gone. They attacked it. This symbol of American ingenuity and strength and labor and imagination and commerce and it is gone. But you know what the view is now? (fighting tears) ... The Statue of Liberty. … You can't beat that.
Of course, most memorable times from the show are less poignant and more absurdist or simply funny. An image that commonly appears when magazines review the show comes from a 2003 report by Stephen Colbert about a purported sexual scandal involving Prince Charles. The Daily Show was lampooning the fact that British news outlets had to resort to using innuendo to be able to report on the situation at all due to the strict libel laws in the United Kingdom. Colbert reported, with emphasis:
- This is a story I could really wrap my hands around. I mean, I'd love to grab this story by the hilt and work this story long and hard, maybe teasing you with a few details. Make you beg for the story until it builds into a huge climax and explodes all over the front pages.
A moment later, he proceeded to wolf down most of a banana and tried to continue reporting, but soon totally lost his composure and could hardly stop laughing—a rare occurrence on the program. However, he succeeded in wrapping up the piece with his trademark stone-faced signoff (which is simply, "Jon?").
Stewart has gained notoriety in some circles for his use of the insult "douchebag" along with some invented phrases based on that word. Perhaps the most famous instance is the labeling of conservative pundit Robert Novak as a "Douchebag of Liberty." Novak's label came in a roundabout fashion, initially based on the testimony of United States Attorney General John Ashcroft in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Ashcroft refused to turn over an important memo to the members of the committee, though he did not invoke executive privilege or anything else. The dialogue from a clip of Senate proceedings aired was:
- Senator Edward Kennedy (D-Mass): "Do you mean you are invoking executive privilege?"
- Ashcroft: "No, I am not invoking executive privilege".
- Sen. Kennedy: "Then...what...are you invoking?"
- Ashcroft: "I am not invoking anything!" [sic]
After the clip ended, Jon Stewart remarked: "Dude, I'm no lawyer, but you gotta invoke something: the Fifth Amendment, executive privilege, writ of douchebaggery–something..." The phrase "writ of douchebaggery" was then interpreted to mean that a special writ could be used by the invoker to refuse to produce testimony on the ground that they are a douchebag. Stewart also referred at a later time to a "Congressional Medal of Douchebaggery."
Robert Novak was going through a series of controversies around this time. He had revealed in 2003 that Valerie Plame was a CIA agent, and in March 2004, he insinuated on CNN's Crossfire that Richard Clarke had revealed government mistakes in his book dealing with the war against terrorism because he resented Condoleezza Rice's position as a black woman on the cabinet. Novak also asserted that Senator John Kerry should be assumed guilty until proven innocent of the accusations made by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. Upon seeing these statements, Stewart labeled Novak "a Douchebag of Liberty," and continued to repeat the phrase several times afterward whenever Novak did something he considered foolish or hypocritical.
A running gag is the insertion of the phrase "...or NAMBLA" instead of stating a proper abbreviation after mentioning a long or convoluted name, such as Republican National Convention or Federal Bureau of Investigation. Similarly, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries was dubbed "NAMBL-OPEC" and the National Rifle Association was dubbed "BLAMBLA."
Interviews usually take place toward the end of the show, and are most frequently of actors, musicians, and authors, although especially lately people important in political circles have often been guests as well. Politically-oriented interviews have begun to attract a considerable amount of attention. Stewart has been known to ask some questions more directly than other interviewers on American television, even though they may be sheathed in a somewhat satirical cloak. He has also been known to stop his guests when they start using talking points or other canned responses, and often disputes the facts behind their claims. However, Stewart has been accused of going easy on some of his more liberal ones, while aggressively challenging more conservative figures.
However, things don't always work out as anticipated. A much-publicized interview with U.S. presidential candidate John Kerry fell short of the expectations of many viewers. The show has also asked President George W. Bush to attend, even placing a newspaper ad with an invitation during the 2004 Republican National Convention. It was requested that he mark one of three checkboxes to RSVP: "I will attend alone," "I will attend with my Vice President," or "I am unaware of your existence."
Many of the flaws that some hold up as an example of the hypocrisy of The Daily Show, including the interview with John Kerry, were addressed directly by Jon Stewart during his appearance on Crossfire. (transcript)
Notable political guests
Presidents and vice-presidents
Cabinet secretaries and other advisors
- Madeleine Albright, former secretary of state
- Richard Clarke, former anti-terrorism advisor
- Ari Fleischer, former Bush press secretary
- Henry Kissinger, former U.S. secretary of state
- Robert Reich, former U.S. secretary of labor
- Joe Biden
- Hillary Rodham Clinton
- Bob Dole
- John Edwards, who announced his candidacy for the 2004 Presidential Election on the show
- Gary Hart
- John Kerry, 2004 Democratic presidential nominee
- John McCain
- Charles Schumer
New York City mayors
Other political guests
- Retired General Wesley Clark
- Ed Gillespie, chairman of the Republican National Committee
- Ralph Nader, occasional presidential candidate
- Archbishop Desmond Tutu
- Ambassador Joseph Wilson
- Michael Moore
A book by Jon Stewart, other comedians on the show and by Daily Show writers entitled America (The Book): A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction (ISBN 0446532681) was released on September 20, 2004.
- Samantha Bee (2003– )
- Lewis Black (1996– )
- Stephen Colbert (1997– )
- Rob Corddry (2002– )
- Ed Helms (2002– )
- Bob Wiltfong (2004– )
- Steve Carell (1997– )†
- Mary Birdsong (2002)
- A. Whitney Brown (1996–1998)
- Steve Carell (1997–2004)†
- Vance DeGeneres (1999–2002)
- Eric Drysdale (2001)
- Adrianne Frost (2002)
- Jon Glaser (2004)
- Rachael Harris (2002–2003)
- Laura Kightlinger (1998)
- Beth Littleford (1996–2000)
- Jerry Minor (2000)
- David Pompeii (2001)
- Mo Rocca (1998-2003)
- Michael Showalter (1996)
- Denny Siegel (1999)
- Miriam Tolan (2000–2001)
- Brian Unger (1996–1998)
- David Wain (1996)
- Nancy Walls (1999–2002)
- Matt Walsh (2001–2002)
- Lauren Weedman (2001–2002)
- Lizz Winstead (1996–1997)
- Stacey Grenrock-Woods (1999–2003)
† Steve Carell still appears in show credits as of March 2005 and is reportedly welcome back anytime (He made appearances on 3/23/05 and 4/04/05), though he is usually unavailable because of work in film and television projects across the country in California.
- Weekend Update (sketch)
- Da Ali G Show
- Have I Got News For You
- Late Night with Conan O'Brien
- The Late Show with David Letterman
- Not the Nine O'Clock News
- The Onion (newspaper)
- The Chaser (newspaper) and CNNNN (related show)
- Rick Mercer's Monday Report
- This Hour Has 22 Minutes
- The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (official website)
- "Are you OK?" monologue (from the first broadcast after September 11, 2001 attacks)
- Episode mentioning "writ of douchebaggery"
- (July 11, 2003). Transcript: Bill Moyers Interviews Jon Stewart. NOW with Bill Moyers.
- (September 20, 2004) Transcript: The Jon Stewart and Undecided Voter Connection The O'Reilly Factor.
- (October 15, 2004). Transcript: Jon Stewart's America. Crossfire.
- Lisa de Moraes (August 24, 2004). The TV Column: Seriously: Kerry on Comedy Central. The Washington Post, Page C01.
- (September 21, 2004). No Joke: Daily Show Viewers Follow Presidential Race. The Business Journal.
- (Jan. 18, 2005). Dan Rather's Chair May Get Crowded. Associated Press (CBSNews.com).
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