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Series / The Daily Show

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"When news breaks, we fix it."

The Daily Show is a long-running satirical news program airing on Comedy Central. Instead of a straight-up News Parody a la Weekend Update, the program merely relates the actual news in a humorous tone, with special attention paid to the antics and gaffes of various real-life politicians and public figures and to the coverage provided by the major "straight" news shows (particularly the 24-hour news channels), all of which frequently ranges from the theatrical to the absurd.

Launched in 1996, the program was originally hosted by Craig Kilborn, who was succeeded by Jon Stewart from 1999 to 2015, who was replaced in turn by Trevor Noah from 2015 to 2022. As of 2023, the show features a rotating roster of guest hosts. The host is supported by a cast of correspondents mostly taken from the world of improv comedy, who appear in pre-shot segments or interact with the host in the studio. The current and long-established format includes a segment of the host reporting the news, a segment featuring correspondents, and a final segment interviewing a guest on-set.

Created by Madeleine Smithberg and Lizz Winstead, the show got its start under Kilborn as a parody of local news, finding absurd or trivial stories and reporting on them with a straight face to expose how silly they were. Correspondents would often interview local weirdos who had made local headlines with their strange obsessions or behavior. Each episode followed a strict series of segments, including a "A Moment for Us," "Five Questions," and "Your Moment of Zen." Kilborn presided over it all with a smug Deadpan Snarker personality (while behind the scenes, he feuded with the show's creators, driving them away, and ultimately left the show after three years).

After Kilborn's departure, Jon Stewart took over and radically revamped the format, dispensing with most of the established segments and focusing on political satire of world events. Instead of mocking the sad lives of local losers, the show took aim at the hypocrisies of powerful politicians and flaws in the news media. Sprinkled among the usual celebrity guests on promotion tours, Stewart featured interviews with surprisingly influential national figures, including sitting politicians, former presidents, presidential hopefuls, and even foreign heads of state as well as political commentators, journalists, authors and other authorities. And in contrast to his predecessor, Stewart often mixed the snark with bursts of earnest outrage.

During Stewart's tenure, the show gained the reputation for picking up the slack when the real news media failed, doing the research and asking the tough questions. At the same time, the show was criticized for not being hard-hitting enough and for having a left-leaning agenda. Stewart defended the show by pointing out that it was, in the end, a comedy show. The real journalism should be getting done by the real journalists.

In 2015, after 16 years at the helm, Stewart retired from the show. He was replaced by Trevor Noah, who continued in Stewart's footsteps of lampooning political issues while at the same time bringing his own unique perspective to the table until his own departure in 2022. Afterwards, there were various guest hosts (including Leslie Jones, Wanda Sykes, D.L. Hughley, Chelsea Handler, Sarah Silverman, Hasan Minhaj, Marlon Wayans, Kal Penn, Al Franken, and John Leguizamo) filling in as anchor until Comedy Central formally picked a new permanent host.

Many correspondents have spun their experience in the show into similar projects. Since 2005, the show has usually been paired with a sister show starring a former correspondent, starting with The Colbert Report with Stephen Colbert and followed by The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore and The Opposition with Jordan Klepper. Other similar programs featuring former TDS correspondents include Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, Wyatt Cenac's Problem Areas, and Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj.

The show's writing staff has also published two books in connection to the show, both parodies of high-school textbooks: America (The Book): A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction from 2004 and Earth (The Book): A Visitor's Guide to the Human Race from 2010.

Current episodes can be watched (for now) free in the US on Comedy Central's website . In Canada, it is available at the Comedy Network's site. The show was also available on Hulu.

For tropes for specific series, please go to their respective pages:

Not to be confused with The Daly Show.

Tropes that apply to the Craig Kilborn years or The Daily Show as a whole:

  • Ascended Extra:
    • Both Jon Stewart and Trevor Noah appeared on the show before taking the reins; Stewart appeared at least twice during the Craig Kilborn-era, for the interview segments, and Trevor Noah acted as a correspondent for a few months before being announced as the new host.
    • Several correspondents eventually got a show of their own, whether on Comedy Central or another network: Stephen Colbert, Larry Wilmore, Dave Attell, Lewis Black, Demetri Martin, and Jordan Klepper were all correspondents, and every one of them has hosted their own show on Comedy Central. Other correspondents to get their own show on another network are John Oliver (who filled the host role for Stewart when Stewart was filming Rosewater) with Last Week Tonight with John Oliver on HBO, Samantha Bee (who filled the host role for one night alongside her husband and fellow correspondent Jason Jones) with Full Frontal with Samantha Bee on TBS, Wyatt Cenac with Wyatt Cenac's Problem Areas on HBO, and Hasan Minhaj with Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj on Netflix.
  • Canon Discontinuity: The show's website has virtually every clip of the show since Jon Stewart became host, none from when Craig Kilborn was host. Stephen Colbert, who began his tenure on the show under Kilborn, usually jokes about this on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Averted during Stewart's finale, as Kilborn is one of the many people from the show's past who appeared.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: The show was completely different when Craig Kilborn was host. It was more of a parody of local news programs, with a focus on entertainment. The field pieces generally set their sights on obscure weirdos rather than public figures or activists, so the mockery tended to come across as much more mean-spirited. The show as a whole had a meaner, more condescending tone, most noticeably in Kilborn's personality and interviewing style. Each episode was also much more standardized, with Kilborn running through the same named segments in each episode and ending each interview with "Five Questions." There was also no audience for the first season of the show, and any laughter heard were offscreen cast and crew. Kilborn's name was also never attached to the show title. Once Jon Stewart took over, he gradually shifted the focus to political satire, did away with most of the pre-existing segments, and significantly changed the tone. Stewart's early shows are somewhat jarring, though; they are essentially Stewart doing Kilborn's show, as the series' full evolution into political satire didn't really take off until Indecision 2000.
  • Every Episode Ending: "Here it is, your moment of zen." During Kilborn's run, the clip was usually a ridiculous or surreal non sequitur, while Jon Stewart and Trevor Noah have both used a funny or ironic news clip that is usually related to something covered previously.

Now here it is, your moment of zen:

Waldorf: Hey, do you think we could get on this show?
Statler: Hm. They only let Muppets on if they're in Guantanamo Bay... or Republicans!
Waldorf: Uh... well, I best start packing for Cuba then!
Both: Doh-ho-ho-ho-ho!