I was in the audience for the taping of last night's Daily Show. I've heard accounts from friends who've been there, and there are plenty of blog articles on the experience, so rather than run it down beat for beat, I'll try to offer some stray observations I haven't seen elsewhere.
As always with TV, the set is crap in real life. The desk is crap. The "newsroom" monitors in the background are cheap, blurry paint-ons. Everything seems small and tacky. I tried to capture the tackiness, below, but via some magic I don't understand, it all looks great in the photo. Chalk it up to lens-versus-eye juju.
Most of the audience followed the beats of the show, swiveling their heads toward monitors to view clips, etc.. I can watch the show at home, so I kept my eye on Stewart and his crew, hoping to see what the process is like for them after so many years on the air. I played a bit with Tony Bennett back in the day, and it was fascinating to watch him approach "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" for the umpteenth time.
As clips play, Stewart positions early for whatever mug he needs to have on his face when the camera returns. He doesn't view the clips - he's spent all afternoon watching them. Instead, he's cupping his forehead with his hand, leaning back apprehensively in his chair, or whatever...and cooly awaiting the camera. It doesn't seem forced or phony, just highly technical and tactical. Like a ballet where all movements have been pre-mapped, and attention's focused entirely on flow and pacing. You feel the pacing much more acutely in the studio than on TV.
Stewart mostly ad-libs; he barely follows his script. It wasn't that he was decorating or riffing off of it; more like he was so familiar with the material (again, he'd been working on it all day) that the script was just a guide. This rang home when, before the final segment, the teleprompter cued up "That's our show. Here it is, your moment of zen", as if he needed that. Stewart seems to do the show mostly by memory, while the script runs for security.
Before the show, Stewart was asked a couple of interesting questions: one was (winkingly) whether he and the staff had gotten together to revamp policies in light of last week's bizarre Jennifer Lawrence interview (which was referenced several times in the show):
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