The Daily Show vs. Tina Fey and...Rob Corddry?

March 25, 2008

You might be surprised to know where an ex-Daily Show correspondent stands in regards to Tina Fey and the present state of “The Daily Show”.

To give some quick background first though, in October I scribbled some thoughts on “The Colbert Report’s” first attempt at a book and included a brief tangent criticizing “The Daily Show” as of late. Now I feel like I'’m not the only one thinking these crazy heretical thoughts, because in a recent interview with Reader'’s Digest, Tina Fey said:

My friend, SNL writer Seth Meyers, coined the term clapter, which is when you do a political joke and people go, “Woo-hoo.” It means they sort of approve but didn’t really like it that much. You hear a lot of that on [whispers] The Daily Show.

As might be expected, she’s getting slammed for it by anonymous internet commenters (the good folks at Digg being especially harsh), but one of The Daily Show’s own said a none-too-dissimilar comment about a year ago. Here’s Rob Corddry when asked about “The Daily Show” audience:

The Daily Show audience used to drive me fucking crazy, because they would just applaud at every reference to some right-wing guest being taken down. Or anything slightly to the left of center. They would stand in their chairs, and it would just drive me crazy.

The Daily Show, at its best, is not smug. And Jon tells the audience, “Look, tonight Bill O'‘Reilly is gonna be on, and we know you don’t like him, but he is a guest in our house, and you treat him with respect.” And Jon absolutely hates it when people will just applaud at anything remotely liberal.

It’s a knee-jerk audience. It’s so easy.

I don'’t think anyone (Tina Fey, Rob Corddry, or myself included) is saying that “The Daily Show” is now unfunny. What I do think is that an increasing number of people are growing tired of the way the show seems to be playing to the audience and the direction that audience seems to be driving the show.

Not to make wildly generalized claims without spending the effort necessary to find video proof, but: a solidly funny joke that takes a politically neutral stance or even (gasp!) takes a legitimate shot at the Democrats (as opposed to a compliment veiled as an insult) will routinely elicit a collective “meh.” But show a clip of The Decider, then cut to Stewart doing his “heh heh heh” impression, and then give the audience between 3 and 4 seconds to react - a thunderous applause is guaranteed.

There is still much to love about “The Daily Show”. It has great interviewees on a regular basis and the field pieces are still hilarious. I just don'’t think that the daily review of the day’s news stands up well as comedy when compared to the rapid-fire callbacks of “30 Rock” or the ongoing meta-humour of “The Colbert Report.”

I don’t think I’ll be replacing “The Daily Show” with “The King of Queens” anytime soon. But when I get home from work at 10 PM and have a choice between pulling up “The Daily Show” clips online or getting an extra half hour of sleep, these days I'’m inclined to choose sleep.'