“The Daily Show” Correspondents to Revisit the Show’s Transformation into Political Heavyweight at Politicon 2016
FLOOD is presenting the live panel that will feature former writers, correspondents, and the show's co-creator.
By now, the idea that Jon Stewart fundamentally transformed The Daily Show from a small-potatoes local-news satire to a full-blown political takedown machine is nearly as encoded in American ideology as the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech. And like that Amendment, the history of the fake news show is both precisely that simple and far more complicated.
On June 25, The Daily Show’s cofounder and numerous correspondents and writers who were around for the early days will gather at Politicon in Los Angeles to relive and examine the transition in a panel discussion presented by FLOOD. In addition to Madeleine Smithberg—the co-creator and showrunner/executive producer for the show’s first seven years—the panel will feature correspondents Brian Unger, Beth Littleford, Stacey Grenrock-Woods, and Vance DeGeneres, commentator Frank DeCaro, and writer J. R. Havlan, who retired from the show in 2014 after working on nearly 3,000 episodes. Smithberg originally hired or was involved in the hiring of all of the panelists (in addition to Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Steve Carell, Ed Helms, Mo Rocca, Lewis Black, and Rob Corddry), and with the help of longtime talent producer Kate Post Spitser (one of the original talent coordinators in the early years), is bringing them all back together.
Along with the Daily Show panel, Politicon’s “Unconventional Political Convention” will feature appearances from James Carville, former Mexican President (and Twitter all-star) Vicente Fox, and Governor Sarah Palin, among many more politicians and comedians (but we repeat ourselves).
In preparation for the panel—and because we wanted a good excuse to play around in the Daily Show archives—we gathered our favorite clips from the participating correspondents. You can check them out below.
The Daily Show panel takes place at 1 p.m. on the first day of Politicon’s June 25 and 26 event, which goes down at the Pasadena Convention Center in Pasadena, CA. Tickets are available here.
The hard-hitting Brian Unger was possibly Craig Kilborn’s greatest asset in the early years of The Daily Show, helping to set the stage for future correspondents and all that they would go on to do while somehow managing to keep a straight face. His exposé on the terrors of the powerful dental lobby is a particularly excellent slice of the show’s beginnings, VHS hiss and all.
Littleford made her name at The Daily Show by taking on the softball celebrity interview à la Barbara Walters. Here, she chats genially with former Brady Bunch star Barry Williams about his burgeoning music career (and, as a bonus, we get a screenshot of Amazon.com circa 1999).
In his time with the show, Vance DeGeneres could have been known as the Senior Dateline Satire Correspondent—he honed his hilariously self-serious tone down to something of a science. But he also knew how to step up to bat during the premiere installation of the now legendary Indecision coverage in 2000. Look no further than his field reporting from the headquarters of the real loser of Bush v. Gore (a.k.a. The Nation’s Confidence in the Judge as an Impartial Guardian of the Rule of Law).
DeCaro played his role as a comfortably out film critic and Hollywood gossip with kitsch to spare. Looking back, the most shocking thing about his segment, “Out at the Movies,” is how easy DeCaro takes it on his subjects—the darkest shade he throws in his review of Bring It On is reserved for Michael Bolton’s cover of “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay.”
Stacey Grenrock-Woods was a staple of the transitional era of The Daily Show, ushering in not just Jon Stewart but also the show’s more politically oriented leanings, aided by the comical stylings of one George W. Bush. Here, in one of her finest reports, Grenrock-Woods speaks with a protester who chained himself to the wrong building. Simple mistake, coulda happened to any—wait, did this dude just say he didn’t know who Rosa Parks is?
J. R. Havlan
In his eighteen years behind the scenes at The Daily Show, Havlan wrote innumerable jokes, making pinpointing the highlights nearly impossible. So instead we offer you the last joke he wrote, which concerns the plumbing in Joe Biden’s Delaware home.