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In an interview with Terry Gross, taped in front of a live audience in New York City, the Daily Show host deconstructs his upcoming "Rally to Restore Sanity" on the National Mall and explains how The Daily Show comes up with material.
On Oct. 30, comedians Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert hosted dueling rallies on the National Mall. Called "The Rally to Restore Sanity" and the "March to Keep Fear Alive," respectively, the two rallies closely mimicked Glenn Beck’s recent "Restoring Honor Rally," also held in Washington, D.C.
On Oct. 30, comedians Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert will host dueling rallies on the National Mall. Called "The Rally to Restore Sanity" and the "March to Keep Fear Alive," respectively, the two rallies closely mimic Glenn Beck’s recent "Restoring Honor Rally," also held in Washington, D.C.
Stewart sat down with Terry Gross on Sept. 29 in front of a live audience at New York City’s 92nd Street Y to discuss his time on The Daily Show, his role in the media, and the upcoming rally — which is being billed as "Woodstock, but with the nudity and drugs replaced by respectful disagreement."
"Like everything that we do, the march is merely a construct," he says. "It’s merely a format, in the way the book is a format, a show is a format … to be filled with the type of material that Stephen and I do and the point of view [that we have]. People have said, ‘It’s a rally to counter Glenn Beck.’ It’s not. What it is was, we saw that and thought, ‘What a beautiful outline. What a beautiful structure to fill with what we want to express in live form, festival form."
For the past 11 years, Stewart has been expressing his opinions nightly on The Daily Show, which consistently ranks among the top programs viewed by the 18-34 age demographic. His quick wit and biting satire have taken the once-obscure fake-news show and made it an influential voice in American humor and politics.
To make the bits that go into the nightly show, Stewart says, the writers and producers follow a daily schedule that includes a lot of research, writing and rewriting.
EnlargeJoyce Culver/92nd Street Y Terry Gross interviewed Jon Stewart on Sept. 29 at the 92nd Street Y in New York City. "You’d be incredibly surprised at how regimented our day is and how the infrastructure of the show is mechanized," he says. "People say, The Daily Show, you guys just sit around and make jokes,’ but to weed through all of this material … and decide what to do, we have a very strict day that we have to adhere to. And by doing that, it gives us the freedom to improvise."
Each day at 9 a.m., Stewart sits with his writers and producers. They go over all of the previous day’s top news stories and how they’ve been covered by the 24-hour news channels and other news programs.
"The 9 o’clock is to kind of rehash the analysis we were going over the night before, to see if the premises and hypotheses we came up with the night before have come to pass, and what’s the video evidence," Stewart says. "And we take that and we start to knit it together for writing assignments. And those writing assignments are usually coming back in at 11:30, at which point we begin to read them. Then we go over the notes of how we’re going to attack it. The day basically goes as sort of a little dance between writing and rewriting and including all of the other elements — graphics and other things."
The final hours before the 6 p.m. live taping are spent rewriting chunks of the script that didn’t work during the dress rehearsal, or adding material that the staff has found between writing sessions. Sometimes, Stewart says, entire elements are completely reworked during the show’s rewrite — and then performed for the first time in front of the studio audience.
But even though The Daily Show often comes up with facts and stories missed by other news sources, Stewart says, it would be wrong to describe what he does as "journalism."
"We don’t do anything but make the connections," he says. "We’re just going off our own instinct of, ‘What are the connections to this that make sense?’ And this really is true: We don’t fact-check [and] look at context because of any journalistic criteria that has to be met; we do that because jokes don’t work when they’re lies. We fact-check so when we tell a joke, it hits you at sort of a gut level — not because we have a journalistic integrity, [but because] hopefully we have a comedic integrity that we don’t want to violate."
Stewart is the co-author of America (The Book): A Citizen’s Guide to Democratic Inaction and Earth (The Book): A Visitor’s Guide to the Human Race. He also hosted the 78th and 80th Academy Awards and has received two Peabody Awards for his work on The Daily Show’s election coverage in 2000 and 2004.