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The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

An American TV show focused on satirizing the news and those people who make the headlines.

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The World News Headquarters

  • Apr 25, 2012
Rating:
+4
It was in the mid-90's when a little cable channel called Comedy Central first appeared on my radar. I can tell people with complete honesty that I knew and watched the station before it was even close to cool. Unfortunately, my earliest experiences with Comedy Central were letdowns, because the station wasn't exactly rolling in the dough. All they could really do were present people with those really bad movies big stars often got stuck making before they ever hit the A-list and reruns of sitcoms I would rather have forgotten. Every now and then, they would present a show featuring successful, working, but unknown comedians.

They had some early successes during the era: Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist was popular, and being a fan of stand-up comedy since I was six, I would tune into a show with Bill Maher every now and then called Politically Incorrect, but mostly I was watching old Saturday Night Live reruns I never caught the first time. In 1996, Comedy Central debuted a satirical show which I thought would be just awesome: It was called The Daily Show, a self-styled fake news show which featured comic monologues of the day's news headlines, segments and debates from correspondents, and The Daily Show News Truck! I couldn't wait to see it.

Unfortunately, when The Daily Show debuted, I was lukewarm at best to it. It was disappointing, to say the least. It had some serious problems: First and foremost, the host, a Sportscenter co-anchor named Craig Kilborn, had the persona of a smarmy, smug, self-satisfied preppy frat boy. He was an insufferable twat and I wanted to slug his punchable face every time he launched into his insipid monologues. Second: Speaking of insipid monologues, the comedy presented by The Daily Show was way too broad to have the zinging bite of a good satirical news show. Third, the news itself had way too much of a water-skiing squirrel feel to it. The Daily Show was playing it safe, and trying too hard to appeal through so-called human interest to broaden its audience. Fourth, it relied way too much on its hosts and correspondents which, with a self-serving frat boy topping off the news totem, was just not good. Network differences kept the show in a witless hybrid format, since Comedy Central was concerned about its appeal, and the show had a mean-spirited streak to it which pissed off even the cast. Said then-correspondent Stephen Colbert: "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 those pieces."

The Daily Show was ignored by virtually everyone, even after Comedy Central finally struck gold in 1997 with the debut of South Park. Little did I know, as a sometime-viewer of the show, there was backstage friction which resulted in the mass exodus of several people who made the show what it was: Co-creator Lizz Winstead left after falling out with Kilborn, and correspondents Brian Unger and A. Whitney Brown left shortly before. In December of 1998, the show had its final disagreement with Kilborn, who left after the December 17 episode. From there, The Daily Show aired reruns for four weeks while it was given a retooling.

On January 11, 1999, the newly refurbished Daily Show showed up. At the helm was a little-known comic with a flair for politics best known for a failed talk show on MTV. His name was Jon Stewart, and he served as an executive producer of The Daily Show as well as its host. Onion contributors Ben Karlin and David Javerbaum were hired as writers, and The Daily Show took off in a new direction based in razor political humor. It fulfilled its potential, became the golden success Comedy Central hoped for, drew lots of criticism from "real" political pundits, and eventually birthed a spinoff starring Stephen Colbert. It also won two Peabody Awards - those are awards for journalism, not entertainment!

Karlin describes his approach to the show: "The main thing, for me, is seeing hypocrisy. People who know better saying things that you know they don't believe." This is a good summary of the usual opening segment, which usually involves Stewart firing off a hilarious running commentary on whatever world news issues were tackled in the mainstream that day. Being important, world-changing things, those initial monologues have a hard political slant, and Stewart is an unapologetic liberal who doesn't veil his contempt for Fox News pundits. He calls their hypocrisy quite often, and every so often Fox News gets fed up and tries to call attention to "Jon Stewart's War Against Conservatives." I personally see it as more of a war against Fox News. Stewart often tries to deflect criticism by pointing out that he's a comedy host of a comedy show. That's technically true, but it rings hollow to non-liberals like myself because Stewart's stand-up routine and interviews have shown him to be well-read on important issues. On the interview segments which cover The Daily Show's last ten minutes, Stewart has had many involved conversations with politically-oriented guests, and he's challenged them as often as they've challenged him. Honestly, Stewart at his interviewer best is an insightful thinker who can dish out challenging and controversial thoughts and also learn and think when an interviewee suggests something he hadn't considered.

Stewart does acknowledge the more liberal view of the show, though he contends that it isn't intentional because The Daily Show isn't a political organization. He believes the first and foremost duty of the show is to be funny, and explains that Republicans tend to be better comic fodder because "I think we consider those with power and influence targets and those without it, not." Stewart is the right guy to host The Daily Show. Even at his most mocking, he attacks the news story he's reporting and the major people who are there making the news, and never tries to insult the people who watch the show. And he is also very often critical of leftist politicians who are weak, timid, or just useless.

The first ten minutes usually covers a few of the big world news stories, then goes into a correspondent segment. Sometimes the correspondent segments can be the best part of a show. Correspondents include Samantha Bee, John Oliver, Jason Jones, and Aasif Mandavi, and sometimes Lewis Black shows up. The Daily Show has become a launching pad of sorts for some of today's most prominent comic talent, including Steve Carell, who is best known as Michael Scott from the American version of The Office; Ed Helms, also from The Office and The Hangover; and the brilliant Stephen Colbert, who has actually eclipsing The Daily Show as a modern, political version of Andy Kaufmann.

Sometimes, The Daily Show will take on broader satire. When Congressman Anthony Weiner was caught sending photographs of his surnamesake to a handful of women an resigned from Congress, The Daily Show held a phony apology forum in which Stewart mock-resigned from his post out of shame for not using more "weiner" jokes. Earlier that year, on a very spectacular comedic swoop, he spent the first segment mocking the recently-killed Osama bin Laden, and had four of his correspondents do separate segments: First was a pissed-off Aasif Mandavi, who was angry about trying to find bin Laden in the mountains while he was actually living comfortably in the suburbs; then came Samantha Bee, who attempted to flip bin Laden's house; John Oliver looked at it through the lens of the British Royal wedding, which was also that weekend; then Jason Jones raved about the lifting of travel restrictions, which he theorized would allow him to carry weapons on airplanes again. Stewart's next segment that day was an attack on the Royal wedding and the fact that the Royals had forbidden photos from being used for satirical purposes, which put the British Oliver up in arms. Indecision has become routine for The Daily Show, which is scathing coverage of Presidential elections.

The great weakness of The Daily Show is often the interviews. First of all, it feels like a waste whenever Stewart is forced to throw his intellect at whatever actor is there making the promotional rounds. Second, Stewart himself appears to sometimes suffer from some kind of hypocrisy of his own; he gets to interview many of the people he attacks, but tends to be toothless in doing so. He seems to have gotten better about that lately, though; some years ago, he interviewed the President of Pakistan, who claimed Osama bin Laden wasn't hiding in his country. The day after bin Laden was killed, he attacked the President of Pakistan, calling him a liar, and when this same President later dropped by the show, Stewart found a polite way to ask him what gives. Ann Coulter, a conservative pundit known for hating her own gender and wanting to bomb everyone, was invited onto the show. She was famously booed off by the audience.

The degree to which you can really enjoy The Daily Show probably depends on the degree to which you agree with Jon Stewart's political views. Or, if you're more like me, the degree to which you're able to appreciate the fact that guys like him call out professional pundits who claim to speak for the side you frequently take. The truthiness of the matter is that The Daily Show is fantastic if you're a liberal, libertarian, or old-style conservative; a godless attack on all that is good and righteous in the world if you're a neoconservative; and an obvious slave to the bourgeois if you lean socialist or lefter. (Yes, that's a reference to The Colbert Report, but I'm sticking to it because it came from The Daily Show and I'll be reviewing it soon.)

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April 27, 2012
Jon Stewart does evoke a lot of commentary fans and guests alike.
 
April 27, 2012
Great review! This is my preferred news source ;)
April 28, 2012
Hey, they have journalism awards!
 
1
More The Daily Show with Jon Stewar... reviews
Quick Tip by . June 03, 2010
really funny. best when watched occasionally rather than every night, as he does have a formula. lightens up having to hear heavy news.
Quick Tip by . June 18, 2010
I heart Jon and his sassy mouth.
Quick Tip by . June 15, 2010
not uplifting.
About the reviewer
Nicholas Croston ()
Ranked #27
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About this tv show

Wiki

The Daily Show, known in its current incarnation as The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, is an American late night satirical television program airing each Monday through Thursday on Comedy Central in the United States. 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, bringing a number of changes to the show's content. Under Stewart, The Daily Show has become more strongly focused around politics and the national media, in contrast with the more character-driven focus during Kilborn's tenure.

Describing itself as a fake news program, The Daily Show draws its comedy from recent news stories, satirizing political figures, media organizations, and often, aspects of the show itself. The show typically opens with a monologue from the host 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 has grown in popularity since Jon Stewart took over hosting, with organizations such as the Pew Research Center claiming that it has become a primary source of news for many young people, an assertion the show's staff have repeatedly rejected. Critics, including ...

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Details

Description: Satirizes current events, headlines, and the people in the news.
Genre: Comedy
Studio: Comedy Central
Original Air Date: July 21, 1996
Starring: Jon Stewart
Cast: Jon Stewart
First to Review
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