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Democrats Court ‘Daily Show’ Viewers

Aug 28, 2008  •  Post A Comment

Possibly the third most important man in the race for president sits quietly at his desk in Denver looking around, fumbling papers, readying for another night at the Democratic National Convention. Then the music begins, the cheers start and Jon Stewart starts telling jokes.
It’s Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show,” which this week carries the subtitle “Guess Who’s Coming to Denver.”
On Wednesday the show opened with jokes about some of Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich’s gestures during his Tuesday convention speech. Then Mr. Stewart moved on to former President Bill Clinton’s odd, open-mouthed smile as he listened to praise of his wife, former presidential candidate Senator Hillary Clinton. (Mr. Stewart tried to stick a sub sandwich into a picture of Mr. Clinton’s face during the bit.)
This week, in the first of back-to-back political convention weeks, the show is being produced Tuesday through Friday from the University of Denver’s Newman Center for Performing Arts, 7 miles from the Pepsi Center, which is home to most of the Democratic National Convention.
It may all look like comedy, but Democrats are taking “The Daily Show” and its youthful audience pretty seriously.
Correspondent John Oliver’s piece on Wednesday’s show talking to Hillary Clinton’s supporters was partially shot inside the Pepsi Center. Mr. Oliver was using convention passes the Democrats gave to “The Daily Show” in what is a first for the show’s coverage of political party conventions.
“We have obtained floor passes for the first time ever—officially to us as opposed to through the Associated Press,” said Kahane Corn, the show’s executive producer. “The DNC [Democratic National Committee] has been working with us incredibly.”
Democrats gave “The Daily Show” four floor passes initially, and more credentials later. The program had a production bus parked inside the perimeter of the Pepsi Center Monday through Wednesday and it is moving the bus today to Invesco Field, where Barack Obama will speak tonight.
“Like it or not, it’s got a big audience. And that means we’re getting our message to more people. After all, Comedy Central fans vote, too,” said Natalie Wyeth, press secretary for the Democratic National Convention Committee.
Republicans as of Wednesday had provided no similar access for their convention in St. Paul, though Ms. Corn said she remained hopeful. “The Daily Show” is skipping its normal Labor Day holiday to kick off coverage of the GOP convention in St. Paul Monday through Thursday next week.
This year’s unusual back-to-back conventions are presenting the show with some of the same problems facing straight broadcast and cable news teams in terms of moving equipment and staff from the Democratic to the Republican convention. It’s a problem the show has never faced before.
“What we found out is as intense as every convention has been and the tremendous amount of work to cover something that’s outside our normal workspace, that it was apparently a luxury to only have to focus on one at a time because we had weeks in between them,” Ms. Corn said.
She said the show has never before done back-to-back remotes from two different places and two different sets had to be created and crews enlisted to meet demands.
Although the show airs at 11 p.m. EDT immediately after the night’s convention activities wrap up, it is produced earlier in the day and reflects the previous night’s convention activities.
“It’s Mountain time, so our coverage is 26 hours behind,” Mr. Stewart quipped on Wednesday’s show.
The schedule, however, means immediately after one show is produced, writers race to TV sets to watch the convention and prepare material for the next day’s show.
“We have everyone stationed around a bunch of different television sets in this building with each television set tuned to a different network,” said Ms. Corn. “As they see what happens people are writing at their computer, noting things and slowly things are starting to come together on how we will cover it on the next day’s show.”
Ms. Corn said the coverage schedule pushes her team to the limit.
“Any convention is a weekends, nights … 24 hours, around-the-clock scenario. This happens to be two straight weeks of it for the lucky ones. Other people who come in advance will have been on the road for three weeks,” she said.
Being part of “The Daily Show” may leave staff more latitude to show the strain.
“There had been bets being placed before we left about who was going to lose it, when,” she said. “Some people are already making money on it.”
(Editor: Baumann)

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