Comedy Impact Report '08: Tube Titans
Unlike the president it has ridden roughshod over the past eight years, “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart” doesn’t come with term limits. But the leading fake newsshow of the free world still requires its own transition strategy, as it has become a launchpad for comedic talent with a cast frequently in flux.
“We’re fans of ‘The Daily Show’ here,” says Wendi Trilling, executive VP of comedy development for CBS Entertainment, which recently announced the plucking of three of the program’s correspondents for upcoming Eye projects. “Many mornings, we all chat with each other: ‘Did you see ‘The Daily Show’ last night? Did you see that sketch?’ or ‘this sketch?'”
In a one-week span, CBS bought into a celebrity cooking-empire pitch from “Daily Show” husband-and-wife correspondents Jason Jones and Samantha Bee, then followed that up by signing Rob Riggle to something increasingly rare in TV these days: a talent holding deal.
The emergence of talent from “The Daily Show” is nothing new: Look no further than its original host, Craig Kilborn, moving to a latenight gig on CBS in the late 1990s.
The one who really made heads turn was Steve Carell, who left in 2004 for an uncertain adaptation of U.K. sitcom “The Office” (which “Daily Show” alum Ed Helms also joined). Later, Stephen Colbert successfully spun off “The Daily Show” into “The Colbert Report,” while several others have used the show as a springboard to further success.
Stewart himself parlayed the show’s popularity into a gig hosting the Academy Awards.
“Jon has revived in splendid fashion the fine art of political satire,” says NBC News vet Tom Brokaw, “a place where the news may be fake but the truth prevails. Did I mention he’s very smart as well as funny?”
Basic training is old hat for Rob Riggle, veteran of both the U.S. Marines and “The Daily Show,” who gained his greatest fame when his comedy and military backgrounds merged into a trip to Iraq to do a series of pieces for the fake newsshow.
“It’s been great exposure, and Jon really lets the correspondents have free rein,” Riggle told Variety when it was announced last month that he had signed a talent deal with CBS to create and star in an upcoming sitcom. “He lets you stretch your legs and find your voice.”
Samantha Bee and Jason Jones
Samantha Bee and Jason Jones met doing children’s theater in the ’90s. Since then, the children have grown up, but the husband-and-wife “Daily Show” correspondents haven’t.
Instead, they’ve fit right in with the subversive style of “The Daily Show.” Now the pair has successfully pitched CBS on a sitcom centered on a celebrity chef and his cooking empire.
“We were big fans before the pitch, so we were really excited that they were coming in at all,” says Wendi Trilling, CBS Entertainment exec veep of comedy development.
John Hodgman’s “Daily Show” career started with a guest appearance in which the former literary agent promoted his deadpan book “The Areas of My Expertise.”
The comic, best known for his role as the “PC” in a series of popular Apple TV commercials, was invited to return as a recurring Resident Expert, and, though he has never been an official “Daily Show” correspondent, the show has transformed both his career and his sense of humor.
“I did not find politics funny, I found them to be either exciting or enraging or disturbing or sad,” he recently told the Boston Phoenix.