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The Daily Show is an American news and late-night talk show program that airs every week, Monday through Thursday on Comedy Central. The show describes itself as a fake news program, however The Daily Show draws its comedy and content from factual and recent news stories, political figures, media organizations and often uses self-referential humor. The show half-hour-long show was first hosted in 1996 by Craig Kilborn until December of 1998. Jon Stewart then took over as the host from January of 1999 until August of 2015. Stewart made the show focus more strongly on political based stories in contrast to the focus of pop culture during Kilborn’s tenure. Jon Stewart was succeeded by Trevor Noah in September of 2015. The program is popular among young audiences , with organizations such as the Pew Research Center suggesting that 74% of regular viewers are between 18 and 49, and that 10% of the audience watch the show for its news headlines, 2% for in-depth reporting, and 43% for entertainment, compared with 64% who watch CNN for the news headlines.
Critics chastised Stewart for not conducting sufficiently hard-hitting interviews with his political guests, some of whom he may have lampooned in previous segments. Stewart and other Daily Show writers responded to such criticism by saying that they do not have any journalistic responsibility and that as comedians their only duty is to provide entertainment. Stewart’s appearance on the CNN show Crossfire picked up this debate, where he chastised the CNN production and hosts for not conducting informative and current interviews on a news network.
Each episode begins with announcer Drew Birns announcing the date and the introduction, “From Comedy Central’s World News Headquarters in New York, this is The Daily Show with Trevor Noah”. Previously, the introduction was “This is The Daily Show, the most important television program, ever.” The host then opens the show with a monologue drawing from current news stories and issues. Previously, the show had divided its news commentary into sections known as “Headlines”, “Other News”, and “This Just In”; these titles were dropped from regular use on October 28, 2002 and were last used on March 6, 2003. Some episodes will begin with a 1 to 3 minute intro on a small story (or small set of stories) before fully transitioning into the main story of the night. The monologue segment is often followed by a segment featuring an exchange with a correspondent—typically introduced as the show’s “senior” specialist in the subject at hand—either at the anchor desk with the host or reporting from a false location in front of a greenscreen showing stock footage. Their stated areas of expertise vary depending on the news story that is being discussed, and can range from relatively general (such as Senior Political Analyst) to absurdly specific (such as Senior Religious Registry Correspondent). The cast of correspondents is quite diverse, and many often sarcastically portray extreme stereotypes of themselves to poke fun at a news story, such as “Senior Latino Correspondent”, “Senior Youth Correspondent” or “Senior Black Correspondent”.
Some segments have recurred periodically throughout different tenures, such as “Back in Black” & “Your Moment of Zen”. Since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, a common segment of the show has been dubbed “Mess O’ Potamia”, focusing on the United States’ policies in the Middle East, especially Iraq. Elections in the United States were a prominent focus in the show’s “Indecision” coverage throughout Stewart & Noah’s time as host (the title “InDecision” is a parody of NBC News’ “Decision” segment). Since 2000, under Stewart’s tenure, the show went on the road to record week-long specials from the cities hosting the Democratic and Republican National Convention. For the 2006 U.S. midterm elections, a week of episodes was recorded in the contested state of Ohio. The “Indecision” & “Democalpyse” coverage of the 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2014, 2016 elections all culminated in live Election Night specials. With Noah as host, one new recurring segment has been “What the Actual Fact”, with correspondent Desi Lydic examining statements made by political figures during speeches or events. Under Noah, the continuation of “Democalypse” and “Indecision” also took place with live shows after the Republican National Convention and Democratic National Convention. For the first time, under Noah, the show also went live after all three U.S presidential debates in 2016.
In the show’s third act, the host conducts an interview with a celebrity guest. Guests come from a wide range of cultural sources, and include actors, musicians, authors, athletes, pundits, policy experts and political figures. During Stewart’s tenure, the show’s guests tended away from celebrities and more towards non-fiction authors and political pundits, as well as many prominent elected officials. In the show’s earlier years it struggled to book high-profile politicians. (In 1999, for an Indecision 2000 segment, Steve Carell struggled to talk his way off Republican candidate John McCain’s press overflow bus and onto the Straight Talk Express). However its rise in popularity, particularly following the show’s coverage of the 2000 and 2004 elections, made Stewart according to a Rolling Stone (2006) article, “the hot destination for anyone who wants to sell books or seem hip, from presidential candidates to military dictators”. Newsweek labeled it “the coolest pit stop on television”.
In a closing segment, there is a brief segue to the closing credits in the form of the host introducing “Your Moment of Zen”, a humorous piece of video footage without commentary that has been part of the show’s wrap-up since the series began in 1996. The segment often relates to a story covered earlier in the episode, but occasionally is merely a humorous or ridiculous clip. Occasionally, the segment is used as a tribute to someone who has died.
Sometimes, before the “Your Moment of Zen”, this segment is used for quick promotions. The host might promote the show that follows right after their broadcast, such as promoting the show @midnight. This time has also been used to promote films, books or stand-up specials that are affiliated with the host.
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