Steve Bodow ’89 had to perch on the back of his chair at a crowded Pierson College Master’s Tea Monday in order for everyone in the room to even see him. About 80 Yale students listened to Bodow talk about his experience as a staff writer for “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” which won the 2003 Emmy Award for Best Comedy/Variety Writing.
“The Daily Show” is a comedy news show that centers around political humor, but also includes pop culture news and guest interviews.
“I think there was a conscious decision to take the show a little less silly,” Bodow said. “Politics are the bread and butter of the show.”
Bodow said the show has become so legitimate that John Edwards announced his candidacy for president on the show this year. But he said he is alarmed when people tell him they watch “The Daily Show” as their sole source of news.
“It’s very flattering that people trust us in that way, but I know we’re not news,” he said. “If people aren’t watching other news sources, it would be hard to tell where the joke begins and the real thing ends.”
During a typical day writing for the show, which airs Monday through Thursday at 11 p.m. on Comedy Central, the team of writers arrives at 9:30 a.m., first splitting up to write news stories separately, and then combining their efforts as a team, Bodow said. The final script is complete by 4 p.m. for the rehearsal one hour later. Bodow said each writer comes up with about eight to 10 jokes each morning and it is considered a success to have two to three used in the final script.
Working with such talented writers and an inspiring boss has been a good experience, Bodow said.
“It’s like a team. Different people have different strengths,” Bodow said. “I’d be really happy to work [again] with any of the other writers, and maybe they’ll say the same thing about me.”
Bodow also had nothing but praise for Jon Stewart.
“It can be really inspiring to work with Jon Stewart. He is incredibly talented,” he said. “I’ve worked in a lot of places in the past 15 years. I now work for someone that I really respect and it makes a huge difference.”
Bodow cited a few Yale experiences that gave him a background in humor and quick thinking. He started the improvisational comedy group Just Add Water, and his experience with improvisation, he said, taught him how to think on his feet. In addition, he said, he enrolled in Daily Themes, which taught him how to write quickly and concisely, a necessary skill in comedic writing.
“It cracked my head open when I took that class,” he said. “It’s a fantastic discipline.”
Now, he said, the most important part of his job is staying on top of current events, which includes reading six newspapers a day.
“My job is to know what’s in the newspapers now,” Bodow said.
Bodow said he was excited by the large student turnout.
“I heard that the show was popular on campuses, and this made it concrete,” he said. “It’s a great feeling.”
Gordon Jenkins ’07 said he was not surprised by the event’s popularity.
“He’s on ‘The Daily Show,’ and everyone loves ‘The Daily Show,’ so of course they’ll come,” he said.
But the audience, however, was filled with regular and new viewers alike.
“I’ve seen the show a few times. I don’t follow the news much, but I wanted to hear how ‘The Daily Show’ works,” Josh Ehrlich ’07 said.
Before he joined “The Daily Show” two years ago, Bodow worked as a freelance journalist, writing for such publications as the New York Times Magazine, New York magazine, and Wired.