17 Things You Might Not Know About The Daily Show
Today’s version of The Daily Show looks a lot different than the satirical news program that debuted on July 22, 1996, with Craig Kilborn in the host’s chair. Many of those changes are the result of current (but not for long) host Jon Stewart, who took over the anchor desk in 1999 and subsequently transformed the series’ vision from silly late-night show to important political commentary.
As Stewart readies to say farewell on August 6 and pass the reins to South African comedian Trevor Noah, we’ve dug up a few things you might not know about The Daily Show.
1. The theme song’s title is “Dog on Fire.”
The instrumental tune doesn’t have any lyrics, but you won’t be able to unhear the phrase “dog on fire” from now on.
According to astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, the famous spinning globes that are seen in the show’s opening credits are spinning in the wrong direction. During an appearance on the show, Tyson explained why the direction was wrong, and the graphics department put together a new, accurate intro just for him.
3. After The Daily Show, Craig Kilborn took two more cracks at hosting.
Following The Daily Show, Kilborn spent five years hosting CBS’s The Late Late Show, from 1999 to 2004. His short-lived Fox show The Kilborn File featured actress Christine Lakin as his sidekick. Lakin is probably best known for playing Patrick Duffy’s tomboy daughter Al on Step By Step and the “nottie” to Paris Hilton’s “hottie” in The Hottie & the Nottie.
4. Jon Stewart considered quitting shortly after taking over the show.
In an interview with Stephen Colbert, Stewart admitted that he had a hard time adjusting to working with Kilborn’s team and that he very seriously considered quitting the show altogether. Though he had some definite ideas on how to take the show in new directions, they were met with strong resistance. “I walk in the door, into a room with the writers and producers, and the first thing they say is ‘this isn’t some MTV bulls***’ … And then I was told not to change the jokes or improvise,” Stewart recalled. Immediately, he called his agent and told him to get him out of the deal. “I had to be talked down from a moderately high cliff,” he admitted.
5. The show briefly had another name.
During the 2007 to 2008 Writers Guild of America strike, the show kept going, but Stewart temporarily retitled it A Daily Show with Jon Stewart as his way of saying the show was incomplete without the writing team.
6. It took Stewart two and a half years to get the show to where he wanted it.
J.R. Havlan—the longest-running Daily Show writer, who worked under both Kilborn and Stewart—explained to The Hollywood Reporter that “[Stewart] used that first year to gradually make the adjustments necessary to create the foundation for what the show would eventually become. I’ve always marveled at his patience, focus, and foresight during that time, and I can assure you that I’m extremely grateful for it.” When Havlan retired last June, he was the only writer who had been on the show since its premiere, and had contributed to a total of 2,821 episodes.
7. Stewart’s worst guest ever was Hugh Grant.
In 2012, Stewart told Entertainment Weekly that his worst celebrity guest ever was Hugh Grant. The British actor was on to promote his film Did You Hear About the Morgans? After being rude to the backstage team, Grant complained that they’d chosen a terrible clip from his movie to show. “Well, then, make a better f***ing movie,” Stewart snapped at him. Grant was subsequently banned from the show and, to his credit, the actor tweeted that Stewart was “correct to give me kicking.”
8. One of his best interviews was Ralph Nader.
At a 2008 Q&A at The Paley Center, Stewart spoke about some of his best and worst guests, and was clear that Ralph Nader fell firmly into the former category. “You know, what I appreciate about him is he clearly believes what he is saying,” Stewart said of the third-party presidential candidate and environmentalist. “He really believes it. It was nice to see somebody with passion."
9. President Obama considered The Daily Show one of his toughest interviews.
POTUS has been on The Daily Show six times. Former White House press secretary Jay Carney said that of every interview Obama did during the 2012 presidential campaign, his one-on-one with Stewart was probably the most challenging. “I think if you look back at 2012 and the series of interviews the sitting president of the United States gave, probably the toughest interview he had was with Jon Stewart,” said Carney. “Probably the most substantive, challenging interview Barack Obama had in the election year was with the anchor of The Daily Show.”
10. Jon Stewart was once the roommate of a now-disgraced politician.
Stewart once shared a New York City pad with Anthony Weiner, the Brooklyn congressman who was taken down after a sexting scandal. Despite their past relationship, The Daily Show didn’t hesitate to make cracks about Weiner—and Weiner understood why. “[Stewart would] get thrown out of the comedians’ union if he didn’t do those jokes,” Weiner told Buzzfeed in 2013. “I haven’t spoken to him in probably six months.”
11. Another disgraced politician announced his presidential bid on the show.
Speaking of disgraced politicians: During a 2003 appearance, then-North Carolina Senator John Edwards announced his candidacy for the U.S. presidency on The Daily Show. Ultimately, Edwards jumped on John Kerry’s ticket as VP, and they lost to George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. Just a few years later, Edwards’s golden boy persona (and his political career) began to crumble when news of an extramarital affair surfaced.
12. The show made an Egyptian comic into an American celebrity.
TV host Bassem Youssef got the nickname “The Jon Stewart of Egypt” for his edgy comedy that was often critical of the government (he was once even arrested for his comments). The comparison resulted in the two men meeting and connecting, and Youssef made several appearances on The Daily Show, including as the “Middle East correspondent."
13. Amy Poehler turned down a chance to host the show.
After Stewart announced that he would be departing the show, several comedians—including Chris Rock and Amy Poehler—were reportedly considered as replacements. Poehler’s reply was apparently “the quickest no in history.” The job went to Trevor Noah, a 31-year-old South African comic.
14. Trevor Noah’s birth was “illegal.”
Noah was born in Johannesburg, where his African mother and Swiss father’s interracial marriage was illegal under apartheid laws. The laws were repealed when Noah was about eight years old.
Noah told Interview Magazine that he speaks six of South Africa’s 11 official languages, including (of course) English. He’s also working on his father’s native German so that the two can better communicate.
16. The Daily Show set an award-show record.
The Daily Show has (so far) been nominated for a total of 56 Emmys and has won 20, which was the longest Emmy winning streak in history … until that streak was broken by its spinoff and sibling show, The Colbert Report.
17. There’s one thing you should not expect from Jon Stewart’s retirement.
Stewart, who took a break from hosting The Daily Show to direct the film Rosewater, has expressed interest in making more movies. One thing he won’t be doing, though? “The one thing I can promise you I won’t do is cut an album,” he says. So much for that rap career …