Many Comedians Have 'The Daily Show' To Thank For Their Thriving Careers

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As Jon Stewart's final week hosting The Daily Show gets underway, we examine the show's legacy and the many careers and spinoffs it's launched.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright NPR. View this article on npr.org.

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

For fans of Jon Stewart, a dark day is coming. After more than 15 years, Stewart is stepping down as host of "The Daily Show. His final episode is Thursday. Now, one of the things that made "The Daily Show" so popular was not just him but the cast of characters - the regular correspondents and commentators - who appeared on the show. As NPR's Elizabeth Blair reports, those comedians have gone on to star in movies and to host their own shows.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE DAILY SHOW")

STEPHEN COLBERT: Next question - yes or no.

STEVE CARELL: Yes.

COLBERT: No.

CARELL: Yes.

ELIZABETH BLAIR, BYLINE: Two names for you - Colbert and Carell. A pure silliness when they debated each other on "The Daily Show" in a segment from long ago called Even Stevphen.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE DAILY SHOW")

COLBERT: Does the French election signal the re-emergence of fascism in Europe?

CARELL: Oui.

COLBERT: Non.

CARELL: Oui.

BLAIR: Safe to say their careers blasted off after "The Daily Show."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE COLBERT REPORT")

COLBERT: Tonight, I find a great, new way to make a quick buck. I'll tell you how for just $5.

(LAUGHTER)

BLAIR: Stephen Colbert is about to takeover late night king David Letterman's job.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE COLBERT REPORT")

COLBERT: I do not envy whoever they try to put in that chair.

(APPLAUSE)

BLAIR: Steve Carell's a movie star - something Jon Stewart ribbed him about.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE DAILY SHOW")

JON STEWART: And you were here for years and I never thought you were talented. I mean, you were...

(LAUGHTER)

STEWART: ...You know...

BLAIR: Debasing each other is a tradition on "The Daily Show."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE DAILY SHOW")

STEWART: Why didn't you say anything?

(LAUGHTER)

CARELL: I tried.

(LAUGHTER)

CARELL: But you would never listen to me.

(LAUGHTER)

BLAIR: So many comedians have come through Jon Stewart's orbit - John Oliver, Ed Helms, Rob Corddry, Kristen Schaal.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE DAILY SHOW")

KRISTEN SCHAAL: The systemic one.

STEWART: Systemic? That is...

SCHAAL: Systemic, it's a complicated word.

STEWART: Difficult - you could say the system-ick (ph) or...

(LAUGHTER)

STEWART: ...Systemic.

SCHAAL: Both of them - gross.

STEWART: It's barbare (ph)...

SCHAAL: Ick (ph).

STEWART: Yes. Sure.

BLAIR: Correspondents do sit-down interviews with Stewart and report from the field, like the time Samantha Bee went to Washington state to investigate a new law banning trucker bombs.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE DAILY SHOW")

SAMANTHA BEE: What is your problem with this? It's just pee - in projectile form - tossed out of the window of a high-speed truck.

BLAIR: Samantha Bee will soon launch two new shows on TBS - one late night show and one with her husband, former "Daily Show" correspondent Jason Jones. She says Jon Stewart didn't help her career.

BEE: The show gave me a career, really.

BLAIR: Bee worked on "The Daily Show" for 12 years. She says the pace was intense, the work immensely gratifying and the camaraderie irreplaceable.

BEE: We all worked so hard there and at such a high level of production. Like, you're just cranking out material day after day after day. It really kind of forges your relationships in this fire.

BLAIR: A more recent Jon Stewart hire is 29-year-old comedian Hasan Minhaj.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE DAILY SHOW")

STEWART: Hasan, obviously, these Iranian nuclear negotiations are very complicated. So you been on the Hill all day. You been talking to people. How would Republicans have preferred them to go?

HASAN MINHAJ: Jon, the GOP members I've talked to had a clear strategy in mind. Basically, they think the U.S. negotiators should've opened with - and I'm quoting here - (imitating gunshots). They're coming in hot.

BLAIR: Minhaj was hired in October of last year. He was thrilled just to get an audition. He was doing stand-up at the time, living in Los Angeles, when he flew to New York.

MINHAJ: I did it in the studio. I screen-tested with Jon. And as I was walking out the door, he's like, so I'll see you Monday, right? And I just couldn't believe it. And I was like, what - wait - what are you - wait - what? What are you saying?

BLAIR: Minhaj says in the year he's been with the show, he's learned to focus his writing.

MINHAJ: One thing that Jon has showed us specifically working with correspondents with field pieces is - you know, he's always been really great about cutting because we only have 22 minutes to convey a lot. And in a field piece, you only have four-and-a-half, five minutes, maybe six minutes tops. Cutting out extraneous stuff - even if it's extra laughs - cutting those things out to convey the story and to convey the narrative and the argument, and you'll still get great jokes in there. But once you really establish and lay that groundwork out, that's where it goes to that next level.

BLAIR: Edgy but empathetic is how Minhaj describes Jon Stewart's sense of humor, like the polar opposite of another "Daily Show" regular - Lewis Black.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE DAILY SHOW")

LEWIS BLACK: You don't have to be a rocket scientist to understand our schools are broken, which is good because none of us are.

BLAIR: Black credits Jon Stewart and "The Daily Show" with putting political satire back on the map. He even admits he's a fan.

BLACK: You know, he's smart. He's funny. He's bright. It's irritating.

BEE: It's hard for me to imagine what I'm going to do without Jon on the television four nights a week. I mean, I'm going to figure it out. I've got a plan, but it is difficult. I mean, I have been - like I said, I mean, I've been a show - a fan of the show for as long as the show has been airing.

BLAIR: Samantha Bee's plan includes being a guest on Jon Stewart's final show on Thursday. She says she'll wear waterproof makeup to hide the tears. Elizabeth Blair, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.