Reasons for the rise of ‘The Daily Show’


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The Independent Online

‘The Daily Show’ has become one of the most celebrated shows on American television winning numerous awards, become a favourite among viewers, with the distinction of having several academic papers written about its impact on politics. There are many reasons why, but here are four:

1. Political coverage

‘The Daily Show’ began in 1996, but after comedian John Stewart took over in 1999 the show took on a more political outlook. The show won a prestigious Peabody Award, which recognise distinguished achievement in electronic media, for the show’s coverage of the 2000 American election. The segments, called ‘Indecision 2000’, were praised as “droll and amusing” but also very “insightful”. The show repeated the trick with their coverage of the 2004 American election, and by the end of George Bush’s presidency in 2008, the show was seen as an important part of the political discussion in the country.


2. Guests

As the popularity of the show has risen, the status of the guests for the nightly interview segment has too. While authors, economists and scientists feature regularly, stars interviewed include actors, Brad Pitt, Carey Mulligan and Morgan Freeman and politicians such Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. American Senators, Governors and other political figures feature prominently, as well as philanthropists such as Bill Gates.


3. John Stewart

Replacing John Stewart, even for a short while, will be a difficult task. He has been  lauded by The New York Times as today's reincarnation of the crusading reporters Edward R Murrow and Walter Cronkite. While his style of questioning provokes debate, with some commentators saying he can ask soft questions, it is obvious he has political clout. His criticism of mainstream American media outlets, including CNN’s ‘Crossfire’ segment in 2004 and CNBC in 2009, for failing to inform viewers properly were covered widely across the country. Appearing on ‘Crossfire’ in 2004 he told the show to “stop hurting America”. Fox News is another that has faced criticism throughout Stewart’s tenure over its coverage.


4. The Rally To Restore Sanity And/Or Fear

At the end of October 2010 a rally occurred on the National Mall in Washington D.C. Organised by John Stewart and another satirist Stephen Colbert, around 200,000 people took part in ‘The Rally To Restore Sanity And/Or Fear’. Some had seen it as a response to conservative pundit Glenn Beck (then of Fox News) and his ‘Restoring Honour’ rally, which occupied the same space months before. Others saw it as a publicity stunt, art project, or political expression all of its own. The two organisers played down any political connotations to the rally, but it garnered news attention across the globe, giving ‘The Daily Show’ another boost.