Scott Hardie | February 22, 2012
I watch a lot of The Daily Show. Anybody who keeps up with it does too, because they make a lot of episodes. And it occurred to me that we haven't really talked about it. We started to discuss it once, but that quickly became about the 2008 election, and reading it now just makes me miss older talkier days, so moving right along...

What I'm getting at is, I think about it a lot because I watch it so much. I'm curious who else likes The Daily Show, and how you're struck by different parts of it and people on it.

To me, Jon Stewart is by far the best element, and the show is at its best when he just runs with a topic, eventually getting to the real truth of the issue. For example, take last week's bit about the White House's "religious persecution" over contraception funding. "Truth" can be a subjective thing depending on your political views, but Stewart puts it in such common-sense, spin-free terms that it's hard to object, and terrifically funny.

The correspondents? Hit or miss. They're funny when filing reports from the field like the show's early days, following the faulty logic of hypocrites to their ridiculous natural conclusions, as Wyatt Cenac did with PETA's claim that trained orca whales are slaves. They're less funny when doing some "reporting on scene" skit in front of a green-screen in the studio, and least funny of all when they pretend to be interviewed by Stewart while they feign some outlandish attitude (example). Whatever valid point the correspondents might make through satire doesn't much matter if they aren't funny.

I've struggled to put my finger on why the interview parts with correspondents fall flat when the same performers can be so funny in the field. When I thought about recurring guest speakers like Lewis Black, Larry Wilmore, Kristen Schaal, and John Hodgman, it dawned on me: Black is the only one who's consistently funny, and he's the only one who delivers a monologue. Black works himself up into a hilarious rant by building momentum, interrupted only by audience cheers (and he seems annoyed when that happens). The others have a dialogue with Stewart, but the format is broken. Because they have adopted some phony satirical position that doesn't suit them (Schaal and Hodgman in particular), the routine is: They say a bit of nonsense, then Stewart recoils back in mock awe, then he fumblingly asks for clarification, and they set up another bit of nonsense. Stewart's pauses break the rhythm and sap momentum. Stewart actually becomes a detriment to the comedy. The others have been doing comedy for long enough that if they delivered true monologues like Black, I think their appearances would work a hell of a lot better. The same goes for the correspondents: The less often that Stewart feigns being stunned speechless for a couple of seconds, the funnier their bits are able to become.

That said, Wyatt Cenac and John Oliver are my favorite correspondents, and their promotion to co-head-writers was a wise one. The rest veer from "funny but straining too hard to stay in character" (Jason Jones and Samantha Bee) to "needs a whole lot of practice" (Olivia Munn and Al Madrigal).

And for the interviews at the end of the show? I don't watch many of them, maybe one per week. I'm into the show for the comedy, something to laugh about over a quick meal. There just aren't many jokes in the interviews, despite Stewart's best efforts to liven them up.

Tony Peters | February 22, 2012
I am amazed at the guests that come on the show....it is mind boggling the serious people who come on and John is serious with them...I am currently reading Ali Soufan's Black Banners which I never would have known about without his appearance on the Daily show. and yes last week was Hilarious

Erik Bates | February 23, 2012
Being a comedy news show, you would expect Stewart's views to be skewed to one side or the other (most likely liberal), but it's amazing how, for the most part, he maintains a more "fair and balanced" view than many main-stream news channels.

Sure, he skewers the subjects of the reports, but he does it pretty evenly on both sides of the aisle. Regardless of what end of the political spectrum one may find himself on, he doesn't pull his punches if what you're doing deserves ridicule.

I don't watch the show often anymore, so I missed that report on the contraception hearings. Part of me expected him to go in there, guns blazing, calling the Catholic Church out for opposing the coverage at all. But then he goes and gets all logical about it and points out exactly what I had been saying about it.

Scott Hardie | March 7, 2012
D'oh, I shared the wrong link above. When I wrote about Jon Stewart circling around an issue and eventually nailing it, I meant to share THIS video, the one that actually IS about the White House's "religious persecution" over contraception funding. Not that the first wasn't funny, but this is better, and illustrates the actual point I was trying to make.


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