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The Daily Show: An Oral History

The Daily Show: An Oral History as Told by Jon Stewart, the Correspondents, Staff and GuestsThe Daily Show: An Oral History as Told by Jon Stewart, the Correspondents, Staff and Guests by Chris Smith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As someone who watched THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART from its first episode to its last, I loved this book. Of course, I’m the target audience! Journalist Chris Smith presents a very sympathetic view of Stewart and the program itself — you can tell he’s a fan, too, and shares Stewart’s political leanings — but this is an oral history, and that means there’s a good share of warts-and-all to be found here as well, such as the time Stewart threw a newspaper at producer Madeleine Smithberg in anger, and the details behind Stewart’s behind-the-scenes conflict with Wyatt Cenac, incidents that don’t always paint Stewart in a great light.

But Stewart is hardly a monster. In fact, many of the stories I learned from the anecdotes in this book paint him as someone worthy of admiration, from paying his cast and crew out of pocket during the writers’ strike to make sure they could keep paying their bills, to his tireless work to get the Zadroga bill passed on behalf of 9/11 first responders, to the volunteer work he quietly did for veterans away from the cameras. But what really stuck out for me was just how hard everyone on the show worked. They made it look so easy on television, but these folks crafted a show four days every week based on current events — in some cases extremely current — and they knocked it out of the ballpark more often than not. The days were long and the work was often grueling. But the love so many of the people interviewed in the book have for Stewart and the show is evident, and that makes it a really touching read. (Even John McCain — who was a good friend of Stewart’s until they had a falling out over the senator’s wooing of the far-right base, whom McCain had previously always criticized and stood against, during his presidential run in 2008 — has nothing but good things to say about him here.) I teared up once or twice, and I don’t even know these people!

I never watched THE DAILY SHOW WITH CRAIG KILBORN, and I never really got into THE DAILY SHOW WITH TREVOR NOAH because it felt like it was targeted more toward the generation after mine, but THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART was must-see television for me. If you were a fan of the show, too, or even if you were just a casual, once-in-a-while viewer, I think you’ll really enjoy this book. There are lots of great behind-the-scenes anecdotes and plenty of revelations, all of which I found fascinating, but mostly I enjoyed being around people like Stephen Colbert, Steve Carell, Mo Rocca, Samantha Bee, Jason Jones, Kristen Schaal, Larry Wilmore, and Lewis Black again, even if I’m only reading their words. (Their often very, very funny words!) It felt like visiting old friends.

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