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 politicians and public figures, as well as the reactions of major news shows (particularly 24-hour news channels) which range from the theatrical to the absurd.
The main anchor is currently Trevor Noah (who took over in 2015, replacing Jon Stewart, who in turn took over in 1999, replacing Craig Kilborn), but it's launched a few careers among its correspondents. Steve Carell and Ed Helms are successful alums, and Stephen Colbert got his own spinoff program called The Colbert Report (a parody of confrontational talk programs such as The O'Reilly Factor) which became a runaway success leading him to be picked to take over for David Letterman. Two other Daily Show alums were given their own Comedy Central shows, Lewis Black's Root of All Evil and the critically acclaimed Important Things with Demetri Martin. The show's writing staff has also published two books in connection to the show, both parodies of high-school textbooks; they are 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. Jordan Klepper later gained his own Daily Show spin-off on Comedy Central as well, with the new series The Opposition, which premiered on September 25, 2017.
Before you dismiss it as silliness, the show gets some astonishingly important guests—Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), former Senator Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton (also D-NY), her husband and former President of the United States Bill Clinton, Representative Ron Paul (R-TX) (three times, most recently in 2011), former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, Senator John Kerry (D-MA) (when he was running for the U.S. Presidency in 2004), Barack Obama (2005, and again in 2008 when he was seeking the presidency, and again after being elected 2010 as well as 2012 and 2015 while sitting President), Mayor of London Boris Johnson, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) (many, many times, including 2008), the King of Jordan Abdullah II (twice, in 2010 and 2012), Vice President Joe Biden (in 2009), former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf while he was still president (who is not even the first sitting head of state to be interviewed)- and none other than current UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, to name a few.
To top it all off, despite being a comedy show, the program has received acclaim for its in-depth reporting, to the point where it is said that its regular viewers are often better informed than those who watch more traditional newscasts. True or not, this notion certainly frustrates Stewart himself to no end. If you glean your news headlines from this show, just remember to never take the "correspondents" at face value.
In March 2013, Stewart announced that he would be taking a three-month hiatus from hosting the show in order to direct his first-ever feature film, Rosewater. Regular correspondent John Oliver filled in as host in June and August of 2013 before Stewart returned on September 3, 2013. The added exposure from hosting the show prompted HBO to offer him his own show. Oliver left The Daily Show (taking some of The Daily Show writers with him) in late 2013, and his new show, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, premiered in April, 2014.
In May 2014, Comedy Central announced that Daily Show contributor Larry Wilmore would have his own spinoff titled The Nightly Show, which premiered in January 2015, taking The Colbert Report's former spot. Jon Stewart's production company, BusBoy, produces the show, with Rory Albanese, who produced The Daily Show for many years, executive producing.
In February 2015, Jon Stewart announced that he would retire, although the Daily Show will go on. In March 2015, Comedy Central announced that Trevor Noah would succeed him as host. Jon's last episode as host aired August 6, 2015, and Trevor's first show as host aired September 28, 2015.
For tropes for specific series, please go to their respective pages:
Not to be confused with The Daly Show. While we're at it, Stewart himself is not to be confused with that African-American Green Lantern, or the singer/songwriter best remembered for writing The Monkees' "Daydream Believer".
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. The two 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, and Samantha Bee with Full Frontal with Samantha Bee on TBS.
- 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 came 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 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' 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 clips that is usually related to something covered previously.
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!