The Daily Show
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (called The Daily Show until 1999), is an American late night satirical television program airing each Monday through Thursday on Comedy Central and, in Canada, The Comedy Network. The half-hour long show premiered on July 21, 1996, and was hosted by Craig Kilborn until December 1998. Jon Stewart took over as host in January 1999, making the show more strongly focused on politics and the national media, in contrast with the pop culture focus during Kilborn's tenure. It is currently the longest running program on Comedy Central, and has won 18 Primetime Emmy Awards.
Describing itself as a fake news program, The Daily Show draws its comedy and satire from recent news stories, political figures, media organizations, and often, aspects of the show itself. The show typically opens with a long monologue from Jon Stewart relating to recent headlines and frequently features exchanges with one or more of several correspondents, who adopt absurd or humorously exaggerated takes on current events against Stewart's straight man persona. The final segment is devoted to a celebrity interview, with guests ranging from actors and musicians to nonfiction authors and political figures.
The program is popular among young audiences, with organizations such as the Pew Research Center suggesting that 80% of regular viewers are between 18 and 49, and that 10% of the audience watch the show for its news headlines, 2% for in-depth reporting, and 43% for entertainment, compared with 64% who watch CNN for the news headlines. Critics have chastised Stewart for not conducting sufficiently hard-hitting interviews with his political guests, some of whom he may have lampooned in previous segments. Stewart and other Daily Show writers have responded to such criticism by saying that they do not have any journalistic responsibility and that as comedians their only duty is to provide entertainment. Stewart's appearance on the CNN show Crossfire parodied this debate, where he chastised the CNN production and hosts for not conducting informative and current interviews on a news network.
In 2005, Comedy Central launched a spin-off show, The Colbert Report, starring long-time Daily Show correspondent Stephen Colbert. The two shows run consecutively and continue to have regular interaction with one another, and until early 2011 Stewart would often "toss" (create a bridge between shows) to Colbert at the end of an episode. A weekly version called The Daily Show: Global Edition has been created for overseas markets and airs on foreign networks.
In 2013, it was announced that host Jon Stewart would be taking a three month leave from the show to direct his first film titled Rosewater and that correspondent John Oliver would be replacing him as host for the summer months.
Each episode begins with announcer Drew Birns announcing the date and the introduction, "From Comedy Central's World News Headquarters in New York, this is The Daily Show with Jon Stewart." Previously, the introduction was "This is The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, the most important television program, ever." The host, Jon Stewart, then opens the show with a monologue drawing from current news stories and issues. Previously, the show had divided its news commentary into sections known as "Headlines", "Other News", and "This Just In"; these titles were dropped from regular use on October 28, 2002 and were last used on March 6, 2003.
The monologue segment is often followed by a segment featuring an exchange with a correspondent—typically introduced as the show's "senior" specialist in the subject at hand—either at the anchor desk with Stewart or reporting from a false location in front of a greenscreen showing stock footage. Their stated areas of expertise vary depending on the news story that is being discussed, and can range from relatively general (such as Senior Political Analyst) to absurdly specific (such as Senior Child Molestation Expert). The cast of correspondents is quite diverse, and many often sarcastically portray extreme stereotypes of themselves to poke fun at a news story, such as "Senior Latino Correspondent" or "Senior Youth Correspondent". They typically present absurd or humorously exaggerated takes on current events against Stewart's straight man.
While correspondents stated to be reporting abroad are usually performing in-studio in front of a greenscreen background, on rare occasions cast members have recorded pieces on location. For instance, during the week of August 20, 2007, the show aired a series of segments called "Operation Silent Thunder: The Daily Show in Iraq" in which correspondent Rob Riggle reported from Iraq. In August 2008, Riggle traveled to China for a series of segments titled "Rob Riggle: Chasing the Dragon", which focused on the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Additionally, Jason Jones traveled to Iran in early June 2009 to report on the Iranian elections, and John Oliver traveled to South Africa for the series of segments "Into Africa" to report on the 2010 FIFA World Cup. In March 2012, John Oliver travelled to Gabon, on the west African coast, to report on the Gabonian government's decision to donate $2 million to UNESCO after the United States cut its funding for UNESCO earlier that year.
Correspondent segments feature a rotating supporting cast, and involve the show's members traveling to different locations to file comedic reports on current news stories and conduct interviews with people related to the featured issue. Topics have varied widely; during the early years of the show they tended toward character-driven human interest stories such as Bigfoot enthusiasts. Since Stewart began hosting in 1999, the focus of the show has become more political and the field pieces have come to more closely reflect current issues and debates. Under Kilborn and the early years of Stewart, most interviewees were either unaware or not entirely aware of the comedic nature of The Daily Show. However, since the show began to gain popularity—particularly following its coverage of the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections—most of the subjects now interviewed are aware of the comedic element.
Some segments recur periodically, such as "Back in Black" with Lewis Black, "This Week in God" and "Are You Prepared?!?" with Samantha Bee, "Trendspotting" with Demetri Martin, "Wilmore-Oliver Investigates" with John Oliver and Larry Wilmore, "You're Welcome" and more recently "Money talks" with John Hodgman. Since the early days of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, a common part of the show has been "Mess O' Potamia", focusing on the United States' policies in the Middle East, especially Iraq. Elections in the United States have been a prominent focus in the show's "Indecision" coverage throughout Stewart's time as host. (The title "InDecision" is a parody of NBC News' "Decision" segment.) During the 2000, 2004, and 2008 presidential elections, the show went on the road to record week-long specials from the cities hosting the Democratic and Republican National Conventions. For the 2006 U.S. midterm elections, a week of episodes was recorded in the contested state of Ohio. The "Indecision" coverage of the 2000, 2004, 2006, 2008, and 2010 elections all culminated in live Election Night specials. On March 1, 2011, Stewart aired the first installment of Indecision 2012. On September 19, 2012, Stewart opened with a segment called "Chaos On Bullsh*t Mountain" in which he blasted Fox News for its coverage of a leaked video of Mitt Romney talking about 47 percent of Americans who don’t pay income taxes.
In the show's third act, the host conducts an interview with a celebrity guest. Guests come from a wide range of cultural sources, and include actors, musicians, authors, athletes, pundits and political figures. Since Stewart became host, the show's guest list has tended away from celebrities and more towards non-fiction authors and political pundits, as well as many prominent elected officials. While in the show's earlier years it struggled to book high-profile politicians—in 1999, for an Indecision 2000 segment, Steve Carell struggled to talk his way off Republican candidate John McCain's press overflow bus and onto the Straight Talk Express—it has since risen in popularity, particularly following the show's coverage of the 2000 and 2004 elections. In 2006, Rolling Stone described The Daily Show under Stewart as "the hot destination for anyone who wants to sell books or seem hip, from presidential candidates to military dictators", while Newsweek calls it "the coolest pit stop on television". Prominent political guests have included U.S. President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, former British Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Bolivian President Evo Morales, Jordanian King Abdullah II, and former Mexican President Vicente Fox. The show has played host to former and current members of the Administration and Cabinet as well as members of Congress. Numerous presidential candidates have appeared on the show during their campaigns, including John McCain, John Kerry and Barack Obama. On September 13, 2006, a new portion of the interview segment began called "The Seat of Heat", wherein the host would ask a guest one challenging or bizarre question to be answered. The segment was short-lived, and by the end of 2006 it had been discontinued. Such sports stars as LeBron James and Lance Armstrong have also been featured on the show.
In a closing segment sometimes referred to as the toss, Stewart has a short exchange with "our good friend, Stephen Colbert at The Colbert Report", which airs immediately after. This check-in first appeared following The Colbert Report's premiere in October 2005 and was initially featured daily, but in 2007 was cut back to twice per week, and by 2009 was once a week. After this, there is a segue to the closing credits in the form of "Your Moment of Zen", a humorous piece of video footage without commentary that has been part of the show's wrap-up since the series began in 1996.
The program features Stewart sitting at his desk on the elevated island stage in the style of a traditional news show. The show relocated from its original New York studio in mid-1998 to NEP Studio 54 in New York City's Hell's Kitchen neighborhood, where it remained until 2005, when the studio was claimed by Daily Show spin-off series The Colbert Report. On July 11, 2005, the show premiered in its new studio, NEP Studio 52, at 733 11th Avenue, between 51st and 52nd Streets, a few blocks west of its former location.
The set of the new studio was given a sleeker, more formal look, including a backdrop of three large projection screens. The traditional guests' couch, which had been a part of the set since the show's premiere, was done away with in favor of simple upright chairs. The change was initially not well-received, spawning a backlash among some fans and prompting a "Bring Back the Couch Campaign." The campaign was mentioned on subsequent shows by Stewart and supported by Daily Show contributor Bob Wiltfong. The couch was eventually made the prize in a Daily Show sweepstakes in which the winner received the couch, round trip tickets to New York, tickets to the show and a small sum of money.
On April 9, 2007 the show debuted a new set. The projection screens were revamped (with one large screen behind Stewart, while the smaller one behind the interview subject remained the same), a large, global map directly behind Stewart, a more open studio floor, and a J-shaped desk supported at one end by a globe. The intro was also updated; the graphics, display names, dates, and logos were all changed.
The show's writers begin each day with a morning meeting where they review material that researchers have gathered from major newspapers, the Associated Press, cable news television channels and websites, and discuss headline material for the lead news segment. Throughout the morning they work on writing deadline pieces inspired by recent news, as well as longer-term projects. By lunchtime, Stewart—who describes his role as that of a managing editor—has begun to review headline jokes. The script is submitted by 3 pm, and at 4:15 there is a rehearsal. An hour is left for rewrites before a 6 pm taping in front of a live studio audience. While the studio capacity is limited, tickets to attend tapings are free and can be obtained if requested far enough in advance.
The Daily Show typically tapes four new episodes a week, Monday through Thursday, forty-two weeks a year. The show is broadcast at 11 PM Eastern/10 PM Central, a time when local television stations show their news reports and about half an hour before most other late-night comedy programs begin to go on the air. The program is rerun several times the next day, including a 7:30 PM Eastern/6:30 PM Central prime time broadcast.
With Craig Kilborn (1996–1998)
The Daily Show was created by Lizz Winstead and Madeleine Smithberg and premiered on Comedy Central on July 22, 1996, having been marketed as a replacement for Politically Incorrect (a successful Comedy Central program that had moved to ABC earlier that year). Aiming to parody conventional newscasts, it featured a comedic monologue of the day's headlines from anchor Craig Kilborn (a well-known co-anchor of ESPN's SportsCenter), as well as mockumentary style on-location reports, in-studio segments and debates from regular correspondents Winstead, Brian Unger, Beth Littleford, and A. Whitney Brown (known for his appearances on NBC's Saturday Night Live).
Common segments included "This Day in Hasselhoff History" and "Last Weekend's Top-Grossing Films, Converted into Lira", in parody of entertainment news shows as their tendency to lead out to commercials with trivia such as celebrity birthdays. In each show, Kilborn would conduct celebrity interviews, ending with a segment called "Five Questions" in which the guest was made to answer a series of questions that were typically a combination of obscure fact and subjective opinion. These are highlighted in a 1998 book titled The Daily Show: Five Questions, which contains transcripts of Kilborn's best interviews. Each episode concluded with a segment called "Your Moment of Zen" that showed random video clips of humorous and sometimes morbid interest such as visitors at a Chinese zoo feeding baby chickens to the alligators. Originally the show was recorded without a studio audience, featuring only the laughter of its own off-camera staff members. A studio audience was incorporated into the show for its second season, and has remained since.
Craig Kilborn's Daily Show vs. Jon Stewart's Daily Show
The show was much less politically focused than it later became under Jon Stewart, having what Stephen Colbert described as a local news feel and involving more character-driven humor as opposed to news-driven humor. Winstead recalls that when the show was first launched there was constant debate regarding what the show's focus should be. While she wanted a more news-driven focus, the network was concerned that this would not appeal to viewers and pushed for "a little more of a hybrid of entertainment and politics". The show was slammed by some reviewers as being too mean-spirited, particularly towards the interview subjects of field pieces; a criticism acknowledged by some of the show's cast. Describing his time as a correspondent under Kilborn, Colbert says, "You wanted to take your soul off, put it on a wire hanger, and leave it in the closet before you got on the plane to do one of these pieces." One reviewer from The New York Times criticized the show for being too cruel and for lacking a central editorial vision or ideology, describing it as "bereft of an ideological or artistic center... precocious but empty."
Craig Kilborn's departure
There were reports of backstage friction between Kilborn and some of the female staff, particularly the show's co-creator Lizz Winstead. Winstead had not been involved in the hiring of Kilborn, and disagreed with him over what direction the show should take. "I spent eight months developing and staffing a show and seeking a tone with producers and writers. Somebody else put him in place. There were bound to be problems. I viewed the show as content-driven; he viewed it as host-driven," she said. In a 1997 Esquire magazine interview, Kilborn made a sexually explicit joke about Winstead. Comedy Central responded by suspending Kilborn without pay for one week, and Winstead quit soon after.
In 1998, Kilborn left The Daily Show in order to replace Tom Snyder on CBS's The Late Late Show. He claimed the "Five Questions" interview segment as intellectual property, disallowing any future Daily Show hosts from using it in their interviews. Correspondents Brian Unger and A. Whitney Brown left the show shortly before him, but the majority of the show's crew and writing staff stayed on. Kilborn's last show as host aired on December 17, 1998. Reruns were shown until Jon Stewart's debut four weeks later.
With Jon Stewart (1999–present)
Shift in content
Comedian Jon Stewart took over as host of the show, which was retitled The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, on January 11, 1999. Stewart had previously hosted Short Attention Span Theater on Comedy Central, two shows on MTV (You Wrote It, You Watch It and an eponymous talk show), as well as a syndicated late-night talk show, and had been cast in films and television. In taking over hosting from Kilborn, Stewart retained much of the same staff and on-air talent, allowing many pieces to transition without much trouble, while other features like "God Stuff", with John Bloom presenting an assortment of actual clips from various televangelists, and "Backfire", an in-studio debate between Brian Unger and A. Whitney Brown, evolved into the similar pieces of "This Week in God" and Stephen Colbert and Steve Carell's "Even Stevphen". Since the change, a number of new features have been, and continue to be, developed. The ending segment "Your Moment of Zen", previously consisting of a random selection of humorous videos, was diversified to sometimes include recaps or extended versions of news clips shown earlier in the show. The show's theme music, "Dog on Fire" by Bob Mould, was re-recorded by They Might Be Giants shortly after Stewart joined the show. Stewart served not only as host but also as a writer and executive producer of the series. Instrumental in shaping the voice of the show under Stewart was former editor of The Onion Ben Karlin who, along with fellow Onion contributor David Javerbaum, joined the staff in 1999 as head writer and was later promoted to executive producer. Their experience in writing for the satirical newspaper, which uses fake stories to mock real print journalism and current events, would influence the comedic direction of the show; Stewart recalls the hiring of Karlin as the point at which things "[started] to take shape". Describing his approach to the show, Karlin said, "The main thing, for me, is seeing hypocrisy. People who know better saying things that you know they don't believe."
Under Stewart and Karlin The Daily Show developed a markedly different style, bringing a sharper political focus to the humor than the show previously exhibited. Then-correspondent Stephen Colbert recalls that Stewart specifically asked him to have a political viewpoint, and to allow his passion for issues to carry through into his comedy. Colbert says that whereas under Kilborn the focus was on "human interest-y" pieces, with Stewart as host the show's content became more "issues and news driven", particularly after the beginning of the 2000 election campaign with which the show dealt in its "Indecision 2000" coverage. Stewart himself describes the show's coverage of the 2000 election recount as the point at which the show found its editorial voice. "That's when I think we tapped into the emotional angle of the news for us and found our editorial footing," he says. Following the September 11th attacks, The Daily Show went off the air for nine days. Upon its return, Stewart opened the show with a somber monologue, that, according to Jeremy Gillick and Nonna Gorilovskaya, addressed both the absurdity and importance of his role as a comedian. Commented Stewart: "They said to get back to work, and there were no jobs available for a man in the fetal position. . . . We sit in the back and we throw spitballs – never forgetting the fact that it is a luxury in this country that allows us to do that. . . . The view from my apartment was the World Trade Center. 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? The Statue of Liberty. The view from the south of Manhattan is now the Statue of Liberty. You can't beat that." Gillick and Gorilovskaya point to the September 11th attacks and the beginning of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as the point at which Jon Stewart emerged as a trusted national figure. Robert Thompson, the director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University, recalled of this period, "When all the news guys were walking on eggshells, Jon was hammering those questions about WMDs."
Broadening the role of the correspondent
During Stewart's tenure, the role of the correspondent has broadened to encompass not only field segments but also frequent in-studio exchanges. Under Kilborn, Colbert says that his work as a correspondent initially involved "character driven [field] pieces—like, you know, guys who believe in Bigfoot." However, as the focus of the show has become more news-driven, correspondents have increasingly been used in studio pieces, either as experts discussing issues at the anchor desk or as field journalists reporting from false locations in front of a green screen. Colbert says that this change has allowed correspondents to be more involved with the show, as it has permitted them to work more closely with the host and writers.
Popularity and critical respect
The show's 2000 and 2004 election coverage, combined with a new satirical edge, helped to catapult Stewart and The Daily Show to new levels of popularity and critical respect. Since Stewart became host, the show has won 18 Primetime Emmy Awards and two Peabody Awards, and its ratings have steadily increased. In 2003, the show was averaging nearly a million viewers, an increase of nearly threefold since the show's inception as Comedy Central became available in more households. By September 2008, the show averaged nearly two million viewers per night. Barack Obama's interview on October 29, 2008, pulled in 3.6 million viewers.
In the political spectrum
The move towards greater involvement in political issues and the increasing popularity of the show in certain key demographics have led to examinations of where the views of the show fit in the political spectrum. Adam Clymer, among many others, has argued that The Daily Show is more critical of Republicans than Democrats. Stewart, who voted Democratic in the 2004 presidential election, says that the show does have a more liberal point of view, but that it is not "a liberal organization" with a political agenda and its duty first and foremost is to be funny. He acknowledges that the show is not necessarily an "equal opportunity offender", explaining that Republicans tended to provide more comedic fodder because "I think we consider those with power and influence targets and those without it, not." In an interview in 2005, when asked how he responded to critics claiming that The Daily Show is overly liberal, Stephen Colbert, also a self-proclaimed Democrat, said in an interview during the Bush Administration, when the Republicans held a majority in the House and Senate: "We are liberal, but Jon's very respectful of the Republican guests, and, listen, if liberals were in power it would be easier to attack them, but Republicans have the executive, legislative and judicial branches, so making fun of Democrats is like kicking a child, so it's just not worth it."
Stewart is critical of Democratic politicians for being weak, timid, or ineffective. He said in an interview with Larry King, prior to the 2006 elections, "I honestly don't feel that [the Democrats] make an impact. They have forty-nine percent of the vote and three percent of the power. At a certain point you go, 'Guys, pick up your game.'" He has targeted them for failing to effectively stand on some issues, such as the war in Iraq, describing them as "incompetent" and "unable... to locate their asses, even when presented with two hands and a special ass map."
Karlin, then the show's executive producer, said in a 2004 interview that while there is a collective sensibility among the staff which, "when filtered through Jon and the correspondents, feels uniform," the principal goal of the show is comedy. "If you have a legitimately funny joke in support of the notion that gay people are an affront to God, we'll put that motherfucker on!"
On November 17, 2009, Vice President Joe Biden appeared on the show, making him the first sitting vice president to do so. On October 27, 2010, President Barack Obama became the first sitting U.S. president to be interviewed on the show, wherein Obama commented he "loved" the show. Obama took issue with Stewart's suggestion that his health care program was "timid."
After the United States Senate failed to pass and the media failed to cover the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, which would provide health monitoring and financial aid to sick first responders of the September 11 attacks, Stewart dedicated the entire December 16, 2010, broadcast to the issue. During the next week, a revived version of the bill gained new life, with the potential of being passed before the winter recess. Stewart was praised by both politicians and affected first responders for the bill's passage. According to Syracuse University professor of television, radio and film Robert J. Thompson, "Without him, it's unlikely it would've passed. I don't think Brian Williams, Katie Couric or Diane Sawyer would've been allowed to do this."
Due to the 2007–2008 Writers Guild of America strike, the show went on hiatus on November 5, 2007. Although the strike continued until February 2008, the show returned to air on January 7, 2008, without its staff of writers. In solidarity with the writers, the show was referred to as A Daily Show with Jon Stewart rather than The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, until the end of the strike. As a member of the Writers Guild of America, Stewart was barred from writing any material for the show himself which he or his writers would ordinarily write. As a result, Stewart and the correspondents largely ad-libbed the show around preplanned topics. In an effort to fill time while keeping to these restrictions, the show aired or re-aired some previously recorded segments, and Stewart engaged in a briefly recurring mock feud with fellow late-night hosts Stephen Colbert and Conan O'Brien. The strike officially ended on February 12, 2008, with the show's writers returning to work the following day, at which point the title of The Daily Show was restored.
Stewart's absence in 2013
In March of 2013, it was announced that Jon Stewart would be taking a twelve-week break to direct Rosewater, a drama about a journalist jailed by Iran for four months. John Oliver has been announced as the person who will replace Stewart at the anchor desk for two months, while one month will feature reruns.
Correspondents, contributors, and staff
The show's correspondents have two principal roles: experts with satirical senior titles that Stewart interviews about certain issues, or hosts of field reporting segments which often involve humorous commentary and interviews relating to a current issue. The current team of correspondents collectively known as "The Best F#@king News Team Ever" includes Samantha Bee, Jason Jones, John Oliver, Aasif Mandvi, Al Madrigal, and Jessica Williams. Contributors such as Lewis Black, John Hodgman, Kristen Schaal, and Larry Wilmore appear on a less frequent basis, often with their own unique recurring segment. Ben Karlin says that the on-air talent contribute in many ways to the material they perform, playing an integral role in the creation of their field pieces as well as being involved with their scripted studio segments, either taking part early on in the writing process or adding improvised material during the rehearsal.
The show has featured a number of well-known comedians throughout its run and is notable for boosting the careers of several of these. Scott Dikkers, editor-in-chief of The Onion, describes it as a key launching pad for comedic talent, saying that "I don't know if there's a better show you could put on your resume right now." Steve Carell, who was a correspondent between 1999 and 2005 before moving on to a movie career and starring television role in The Office, credits Stewart and The Daily Show with his success. In 2005, the show's longest-serving correspondent, Stephen Colbert, became the host of the spin-off Colbert Report, earning critical and popular acclaim. Ed Helms, a former correspondent from 2002 to 2006, also stars on NBC's The Office and was a main character in the 2009 hit The Hangover.
In June 2010, actress-comedian Olivia Munn began a tryout period on the show as a correspondent. Her credentials were questioned by Irin Carmon of the website Jezebel, who suggested that Munn was better known as a sex symbol than as a comedian. Carmon's column was denounced by Munn and the Daily Show's female writers, producers, and correspondents, 32 of whom posted a rebuttal on the show's website in which they asserted that the description of the Daily Show office given by the Jezebel piece was not accurate.
Behind the scenes, Adam Chodikoff has been credited with finding key television footage of sound bites.
Television ratings from 2008 show that the program generally has 1.45 to 1.6 million viewers nightly, a high figure for cable television. In demographic terms, the viewership is skewed to a relatively young and well-educated audience compared to traditional news shows. A 2004 Nielsen Media Research study commissioned by Comedy Central put the median age at 35. During the 2004 U.S. presidential election, the show received more male viewers in the 18–34 year old age demographic than Nightline, Meet the Press, Hannity & Colmes and all of the evening news broadcasts. Because of this, commentators such as Howard Dean and Ted Koppel posit that Stewart serves as a real source of news for young people, regardless of his intentions.
The show's writers reject the idea that The Daily Show has become a source of news for young people. Stewart argues that Americans are living in an "age of information osmosis" in which it is close to impossible to gain one's news from any single source, and says that his show succeeds comedically because the viewers already have some knowledge about current events. "Our show would not be valuable to people who didn't understand the news because it wouldn't make sense," he argues. "We make assumptions about your level of knowledge that... if we were your only source of news, you would just watch our show and think, 'I don't know what's happening.'"
A 2006 study published by Indiana University tried to compare the substantive amount of information of The Daily Show against prime time network news broadcasts, and concluded that when it comes to substance, there is little difference between The Daily Show and other news outlets. The study contended that, since both programs are more focused on the nature of "infotainment" and ratings than on the dissemination of information, both are broadly equal in terms of the amount of substantial news coverage they offer.
As the lines between comedy show and news show have blurred, Jon Stewart has come under pressure in some circles to engage in more serious journalism. Tucker Carlson and Daily Show co-creator Lizz Winstead have chastised Stewart for criticizing politicians and newspeople in his solo segments and then, in interviews with the same people, rarely taking them to task face-to-face. In 2004, Winstead expressed a desire for Stewart to ask harder satirical questions, saying, "When you are interviewing a Richard Perle or a Kissinger, if you give them a pass, then you become what you are satirizing. You have a war criminal sitting on your couch—to just let him be a war criminal sitting on your couch means you are having to respect some kind of boundary." She has argued that The Daily Show's success and access to the youth vote should allow Stewart to press political guests harder without fearing that they will not return to the show. In 2010, Winstead had changed her views, commenting that since 2004, Stewart did some of the hardest-hitting interviews on TV. Stewart said in 2003 that he does not think of himself as a social or media critic and rejects the idea that he has any journalistic role as an interviewer.
During Stewart's appearance on CNN's Crossfire, Stewart criticized that show and said that it was "hurting America" by sensationalizing debates and enabling political spin. When co-host Carlson argued that Stewart himself had not asked John Kerry substantial questions when Kerry appeared on The Daily Show, Stewart countered that it was not his job to give hard-hitting interviews and that a "fake news" comedy program should not be held to the same standards as real journalism. "You're on CNN!" Stewart said, "The show that leads into me is puppets making crank phone calls! What is wrong with you?" Media critic Dan Kennedy says that Stewart came off as disingenuous in this exchange because "you can't interview Bill Clinton, Richard Clarke, Bill O'Reilly, Bob Dole, etc., etc., and still say you're just a comedian."
Another consequence of the show's increasing popularity and influence in certain demographics has been increased scrutiny of how the show affects the political beliefs and attitudes of its viewers. Michael Kalin has expressed concerns that Jon Stewart's comedy comes at the expense of idealism and encourages American college students to adopt a self-righteous attitude toward politics, rendering them complacent and apathetic, and deterring intelligent young people from considering political careers. "Stewart," Kalin argues, "leads to a 'holier than art [sic] thou' attitude [among students]...content to remain perched atop their Olympian ivory towers, these bright leaders head straight for the private sector."
A 2004 study into the effect of The Daily Show on viewers' attitudes found that participants had a more negative opinion of both President Bush and then Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry. Participants also expressed more cynical views of the electoral system and news media. Political scientists Jody Baumgartner and Jonathan Morris, who conducted the study, state that it is not clear how such cynicism would affect the political behavior of the show's viewers. While disillusionment and negative perceptions of the presidential candidates could discourage watchers from voting, Baumgartner and Morris say it is also possible that discontent could prompt greater involvement and that by following the show, viewers may potentially become more engaged and informed voters, with a broader political knowledge.
Rachel Larris, who has also conducted an academic study of The Daily Show, disputes the findings of Baumgartner and Morris. Larris argues that the study measured cynicism in overly broad terms, and that it would be extremely hard to find a causal link between viewing The Daily Show and thinking or acting in a particular way. Bloggers such as Marty Kaplan of The Huffington Post argue that so long as Stewart's comedy is grounded in truth, responsibility for increased cynicism belongs to the political and media figures themselves, not the comedian who satirizes them.
Stewart himself says that he does not perceive his show as cynical. "It's so interesting to me that people talk about late-night comedy being cynical," he says. "What's more cynical than forming an ideological news network like Fox and calling it 'fair and balanced'? What we do, I almost think, is adorable in its idealism." Stewart has said that he does not take any joy in the failings of American government, despite the comedic fodder they provide. "We're not the guys at the craps table betting against the line," he said on Larry King Live. "If government suddenly became inspiring... we would be the happiest people in the world to turn our attention to idiots like, you know, media people, no offense."
In July 2009, Time magazine held an online poll entitled "Now that Walter Cronkite has passed on, who is America's most trusted newscaster?" Jon Stewart won with 44% of the vote, 15 points ahead of Brian Williams in second place with 29%. Stewart downplayed the results on the show stating "It was an Internet poll and I was the 'None of the above' option".
Demographics of viewership
In late 2004, the National Annenberg Election Survey at the University of Pennsylvania ran a study of American television viewers and found that fans of The Daily Show had a more accurate idea of the facts behind the 2004 presidential election than most others, including those who primarily got their news through the national network evening newscasts and through reading newspapers. However, in a 2004 campaign survey conducted by the Pew Research Center those who cited comedy shows such as The Daily Show as a source for news were among the least informed on campaign events and key aspects of the candidates' backgrounds while those who cited the Internet, National Public Radio, and news magazines were the most informed. Even when age and education were taken into account, the people who learned about the campaigns through the Internet were still found to be the most informed, while those who learned from comedy shows were the least informed.
A more recent survey, released by the Pew Research Center on April 15, 2007, indicates that viewers who watch both the Colbert Report and The Daily Show tend to be more knowledgeable about news than audiences of other news sources. Approximately 54% of the Colbert Report and The Daily Show viewers scored in the high knowledge range, followed by Jim Lehrer's program at 53% and Bill O'Reilly's program at 51%, significantly higher than the 34% of network morning show viewers. The survey shows that changing news formats have not made much difference on how much the public knows about national and international affairs, but adds that there is no clear connection between news formats and what audiences know. The Project for Excellence in Journalism released a content analysis report suggesting that The Daily Show comes close to providing the complete daily news.
Episodes and guests
Awards and nominations
Under host Jon Stewart, The Daily Show has risen to critical acclaim. It has received two Peabody Awards, for its coverage of the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections. Between 2001 and 2012, it has been awarded 18 Primetime Emmy Awards in the categories of Outstanding Variety, Music, or Comedy Series and Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music, or Comedy Program, and a further seven nominations. The show has also been honored by GLAAD, the Television Critics Association, and the Satellite Awards. America (The Book): A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction, the 2004 bestseller written by Stewart and the writing staff of The Daily Show, was recognized by Publishers Weekly as its "Book of the Year", and its abridged audiobook edition received the 2005 Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album. In September 2010, Time magazine selected the series as one of "The 100 Best TV Shows of All-TIME".
The Daily Show airs on various networks worldwide; in addition, an edited version of the show called The Daily Show: Global Edition is produced each week specifically for overseas audiences. It has been airing outside of the U.S. on CNN International and other overseas networks since September 2002. This edition runs for half an hour and contains a selection of segments including one guest interview from the preceding week's shows, usually from the Monday or Tuesday episode. Stewart provides an exclusive introductory monologue in front of an audience, usually about the week's prevalent international news story, and closing comments without an audience present. When aired on CNN International, the broadcast is prefaced by a written disclaimer: "The show you are about to watch is a news parody. Its stories are not fact checked. Its reporters are not journalists. And its opinions are not fully thought through."
In Canada, The Daily Show is aired on The Comedy Network (a cable channel similar to Comedy Central), as well as on the CTV broadcast network at 12:05am, following late local newscasts. On both channels, The Colbert Report airs immediately afterwards.
In the United Kingdom and Ireland, the digital television channel More4 used to broadcast episodes of The Daily Show Tuesday through Friday evenings with the Global Edition, which is uncensored, airs on Mondays; regular episodes air the evening following their U.S. airing. More4 was the first international broadcaster to syndicate entire Daily Show episodes, though they made edits to the program due to content, language, length or commercial references. The program was also available to watch via the internet video on demand service 4oD. However, the 'toss' to The Colbert Report was usually included even though it was aired on FX, another channel. In addition, the placement of commercial breaks followed the UK format, with one break midway through the show rather than several short breaks at various points. When The Daily Show was on hiatus, either re-runs or alternative content were aired. Since January 2011, only the Global Edition is broadcast. In July 2012 Comedy Central announced that The Daily Show would be shown on Comedy Central Extra in the same format as previously on More4, with episodes shown 24 hours after airing in the U.S. The show began airing on July 23, 2012.
The Global Edition of the week of July 20, 2011 was not aired in the UK as it included a segment mocking Rupert Murdoch's appearance before the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee in relation to the News International phone hacking scandal. Parliamentary rules ban parliamentary proceedings from being broadcast in a satirical context. Stewart dedicated a segment of the show on August 2, 2011 to lampooning the censorship of the episode in Britain. In May that year, The Daily Show mocked the ban on using footage of the Royal Wedding in a satirical context with an animated video that showed Paddington Bear, Gollum and Adolf Hitler as guests at the wedding, and depicted its attendants engaging in various forms of violent and sexual behavior. Stewart later discussed the ban with guest Keira Knightley.
The Daily Show is aired on Australian Pay TV channel, The Comedy Channel, weeknights at 6:30pm. Free-to-air digital channel ABC2 began broadcasting the show without commercial breaks in March 2010, but discontinued in January 2011 when The Comedy Channel obtained exclusive rights; episodes were also available on the network's online service ABC iView shortly after airing. The Comedy Channel (as well as ABC2 during 2010) air the show together with The Colbert Report, and both air the Global Edition on Mondays and the regular edition Tuesday through Friday. The Global Edition was previously shown weekend late nights on SBS before moving to Network TEN.
In Portugal, it airs with no commercial breaks. The Danish national public service network "DR2" airs both the regular and Global Edition of the show with no commercial breaks.
In North Africa and the Middle East, the Daily Show has been broadcast since 2008 on Showtime Arabia. The regular as well as the Global Edition episodes can currently be seen on OSN Comedy, which also broadcasts The Colbert Report. However episodes are often edited if they contain topics deemed inappropriate for the region.
Episodes of the U.S. version are also available online the next day at Comedy Central's official Daily Show website, although this service is not available in all countries. However, clips for UK and Ireland viewers became available on the UK Comedy Central website in December 2011.
The Colbert Report
A spin-off, The Colbert Report, was announced in early May 2005. The show stars former correspondent Stephen Colbert, and serves as Comedy Central's answer to the programs of media pundits such as Bill O'Reilly. Colbert, Stewart, and Ben Karlin developed the idea for the show based on a series of faux-television commercials that had been created for an earlier Daily Show segment. They pitched the concept to Comedy Central chief Doug Herzog, who agreed to run the show for eight weeks without first creating a pilot. The Colbert Report first aired on October 17, 2005, and takes up the 11:30PM ET/PT slot following The Daily Show. Initial ratings satisfied Comedy Central and less than three weeks after its debut the show was renewed for a year. The Colbert Report is produced by Jon Stewart's production company, Busboy Productions.
The Daily Show: Nederlandse Editie
A local spin-off of the show called The Daily Show: Nederlandse Editie (The Daily Show: Dutch Edition) premiered on the Dutch Comedy Central on January 31, 2011. The program is similar to the original, except with Dutch news and a Dutch view on international news. The show is hosted by comedian Jan-Jaap van der Wal, who was a team captain on the Dutch Have I Got News For You, Dit was het nieuws. The first episode featured a guest appearance by Jon Stewart (recorded at the New York studio), who gave his official blessing for the show. This is also the first and still only franchise of The Daily Show. The 'Dutch Edition' didn't make it past the test run of 12 episodes due to lack of viewers.
- America (The Book): A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction, published in 2004, is a book written by Jon Stewart and other writers of The Daily Show that parodies and satirizes American politics and worldview.
- Earth (The Book): A Visitor's Guide to the Human Race, published in 2010, is a book written by Jon Stewart and other writers of The Daily Show and is similar in style to America (The Book), but focuses on planet and human culture instead of the history of America.
The Daily Show’s satirical format has inspired international versions unaffiliated with Comedy Central. The Persian-language satire program Parazit was directly inspired by The Daily Show with the hosts even making a guest appearance on the January 20, 2011, episode of The Daily Show. In Germany, the heute-Show has aired on ZDF since 2009. The name is derived from the main ZDF news program heute. In Egypt, the show Al Bernameg is modeled after The Daily Show as well. Host Bassem Youssef even imitates Jon Stewart's mannerisms, such as using his mug as a comedic prop.
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- Colbert Report/Daily Show: ABC2 update>
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- OSN – channel
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