The Daily Show, Comedy Central’s nightly comedic take on the news, is taping in Philadelphia this week for the Democratic National Convention.
The show normally tapes in a New York studio that seats less than 200 people. The audience at the Annenberg Center at the University of Pennsylvania is almost four times larger. That, and the fact that the focus of American politics right now is just five miles away, brought the show to town.
“All of our stories are right here,” said producer Tim Greenberg. “If we want to ask somebody a question, usually it takes three weeks of trying to book it, and then they drop out. All we have to do here is have a correspondent run down to the convention center. We have the whole political world right there waiting for us.”
That is the same reason just about every other media outlet in the world is in Philadelphia right now. There are an estimated 15,000 news reporters hovering around the Wells Fargo Center like sea gulls down the shore.
The difference is the Daily Show with Trevor Noah is not really a news organization – it’s a comedy show about news. Covering the action of the convention this week is not something it is accustomed to.
“Run out! Grab this! Shoot that! Get back here! Turn around and get back out! Shoot that!” said Greenberg, who oversees the field segments for the show. “That’s not usually the pace we do. We have to act a little bit more like a news team. None of us signed up for that, at all.”
For its first show while in town, The Daily Show spent a lot of time mocking “Bernie or Bust” demonstrators still supporting Sanders after he endorsed Clinton; and with leaked emails showing the Democratic Committee may have actively tried to block Sanders nomination.
“Another email scandal?” Noah asked the camera. “The Democrats get up to more email [bleep] than a Nigerian prince.”
So the Daily Show sent a pair of correspondents down to the Wells Fargo Center to protect Democrats from their own email folly by smashing personal phones and computers.
Noah also interviewed John Podesta, chairman of the Clinton campaign.
“We’re always looking out for jokes, and the Hilary campaign has taken a substantially high road,” he said to Podesta, noting that the campaign has not attacked Trump personally in the face of Trump’s “Lock Her Up” slogans.
“You do realize the world is banking on your campaign.”
“Trevor, I carry that burden with pride,” said Podesta over applause. “We intend to be successful.”
The Daily Show spent last week in Cleveland at the Republican National Convention, where hunting for jokes was easier than in Philadelphia.
“The fact that Scott Baio was in the RNC – we didn’t even make a joke about it,” said Greenberg. “Any normal day, the fact that that was the best they could get, would be a big deal. But it didn’t make the cut. It wasn’t in the top 100 most ridiculous things that happened last week.”
Part of the challenge with the Daily Show is that it is taped at 6 p.m., and broadcast at 11 p.m. Most convention speeches take place in the interim. By necessity, some of the jokes will be a day behind.
However on Thursday the Daily Show will broadcast live immediately following Hilary Clinton’s acceptance speech, writing jokes literally up to the last minute.