Inside the first Denver taping of The Daily Show With Jon Stewart

Categories: Media
jon_stewart.jpg
Jon Stewart.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart is taping shows at the University of Denver's Newman Center Tuesday through Friday during DNC week, and after trying and failing to snag tickets through the show's website (admittedly, I started late), I figured I'd be watching it on TV like the majority of locals. Fortunately, however, a friend of mine who produces commercials for the Comedy Central staple phoned unexpectedly and asked if I'd like him to get us on the guest list. The "yes" leapt out of my mouth so quickly that I nearly sprained my tongue, and he came through. In the end, the experience was a bit of a marathon -- for me, nearly four hours to see the taping of a thirty-minute program. But I'd gladly do it again.

The pass I was e-mailed warned me to arrive with my guests no later than 3:30 p.m., adding that seats couldn't be guaranteed for anyone who showed up ten minutes later than that time. Not wanting to miss the festivities, and knowing how dodgy parking around DU can be, I arrived at around 2:35 p.m., and it was lucky I did. My name didn't make it onto the list, and only a phone call to my friend in New York City convinced the staffer in charge of ticketing to let us in.

VIPs had it a lot better than the rest of the folks who'd landed tickets. We got to linger in one of two small but blessedly air-conditioned rooms just inside the entrance, while the rest of the audience had to stand outside in the broiling hot sun -- and they had a hefty wait due in part to what the ticketing supervisor conceded were production challenges associated with this being the program's first Denver taping. No one was allowed into the Daily Show's studio until well after four, and it took a long, long time to pack everyone in. It was well-past 5 p.m. when the pre-show proceedings began courtesy of standup comic Paul Mecurio, given the task of fluffing the audience.

Mecurio spent a good ten minutes shouting and/or encouraging those present to guffaw as loudly as possible whenever they could possibly find an excuse and/or needling specific audience members in the approved post-Don Rickles manner. By picking on two guys who'd worn a suit and tie, he unwittingly stumbled upon a couple of notable attendees: Stephen Seifert, the Newman Center's executive director (Mecurio goaded him into whispering that he wasn't wearing any pants) and Mark Siegel, co-author of Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy, and the West, a tome credited to former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto and released after her death. Siegel mentioned that he had guested on The Daily Show earlier this year, which Mecurio eventually managed to twist into a cocaine joke. That's how the pros do it.

Then Stewart himself came out to answer questions from the audience, precipitating another prominent person to grab for attention. Linda Newell, who's running for the state senate in District 26, asked Stewart if he would endorse her candidacy. He agreed in a shrugging, deadpan manner that made it clear Newell had better not frame her campaign around him before riffing on a variety of topics -- from the 2004 CNN appearance when he told Tucker Carlson he wouldn't be his monkey to the glories of Pittsburgh in the summertime. And damned if he didn't make all of it very funny.

Finally, after a false start (and two blasts of Bruce Springsteen's "Born to Run" courtesy of the DJ in charge of entertaining the throng during the lengthy delay), Stewart fist-bumped his crew and launched into the show itself, which went damn near seamlessly. The opening bit, which suggested that the state of Colorado is one big beer commercial, wasn't exactly filled with topical references: It pivoted on the old "Wazzup?" commercials, which advertised Budweiser, not Coors (as Stewart jokingly acknowledged), and featured green-screen gags with some of the program's less funny contributors, such as Rob Riggle and Larry Wilmore (I'd seen Wilmore wandering around the Pepsi Center earlier in the day). But recent Westword interview subject John Oliver and Asif Mandvi killed as usual, and Stewart was consistently hilarious as he ridiculed attacks on Michelle Obama's patriotism, her daughter's repeated "Hi daddy!" greetings during Obama's live-via-satellite appearance at the DNC on Monday night and even in an interview with Virginia governor Tim Kaine. (Several sequences are viewable at the Show's website.) Oh yeah: It was also fun to hear Stewart say "fuck" without a beep to cover it.

The whole thing was over in a relative finger-snap, and after Stewart graciously thanked everyone for their patience, the audience stumbled into the late afternoon sunlight. We emerged at about 6:15 with a new appreciation for how much time and effort it takes to amuse us for a few minutes each night. -- Michael Roberts

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