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‘Daily Show’ Gears Up for Late-Night’s Election Season

“The Daily Show” makes fun of CNN, but it’s not supposed to work like CNN. That dynamic will change a bit come November 6, when the Comedy Central late-night mainstay goes live on Election Night.

“In the control room, it’s madness,” says Jen Flanz, an executive producer who has been with the program since 1998, talking about the show’s increasing number of live broadcasts. “They’ll say ‘We are changing the graphics in the moment.’ That’s what the news does all the time. We are not used to doing it, but we are in live show mode, and that’s a different level.”

More of TV’s late-night programs have chosen to broadcast live on special occasions, such as during U.S. elections or after a State of the Union speech, but only “Daily Show” has been doing it since 2000. Eighteen years later, producers say they have a better feel for what they need to do, but still leave room for the unexpected. After all, their live broadcast will mark the first time host Trevor Noah has led the show’s coverage of a midterm election, although “Daily” has already broadcast live seven times during his tenure.

“If a surprising result comes in” between show segments, “we might throw something in,” says Steve Bodow, an executive producer who has been with the program since 2000. “And Trevor is great off the cuff.”

The show’s election-night coverage is just one element of a much bigger series of events around this turning point in American politics. In advance of the elections, “Daily Show” will mount a week of programs from Florida, where some of the most important issues among voters are bubbling. Noah and team will air a week of shows from The Fillmore Miami Beach at the Jackie Gleason Theater starting Monday, October 29 through Thursday, November 1 at 11:00 p.m.

When the team first started doing live broadcasts during Noah’s tenure, the host was new in many senses of the word. He was taking the reins of the program from Jon Stewart and weighing in on U.S. national affairs for the first time. Both host and producers feel the live broadcasts – typically airing around party nomination conventions and other events – helped galvanize Noah, who continues to hone his stand-up career and allows the release of his between-segment chatter with the “Daily Show” studio audience.

But the show faces new completion in the format. Bill Maher, Seth Meyers and Stephen Colbert have also worked out live specials around political moments and both Colbert and Meyers have announced plans to broadcast live on election night as well.

To stand apart from the pack, “Daily” producers try to make the live specials look like more of an event. They intend to use the show’s entire group of “correspondents” – new member Jaboukie Young-White should have come aboard by early November – in one broadcast. “We know we are live, but sometimes the viewer doesn’t know the difference,” said Flanz. “It’s not as exciting to them as it might feel in the building.” Some may be in studio and some may be in the field, b ut assembling the entire cast at once lends the program a different look that can bring viewers into the event more quickly says Bodow.

The show also uses social media to whet appetites, say the producers The show’s “expansion team” can tweet out jokes and ideas well before broadcast time.

“Daily Show” has done as many live shows with Noah as it did during the entire span of Stewart’s tenure, producers said. And while producers have the ability to go live quickly, they’re not sure they should abuse the power. “If we find out that there’s going to be a big thing happening, we could decide that morning” says Flanz. But the process takes a toll on the staff, she notes. “I would hope that doesn’t become a habit.”

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