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Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Fair and balanced



'Street' smokes up with 'The Daily Show''s Ed Helms
By john carroll
October 14, 2004


Like many correspondents before him, Ed Helms has used The Daily Show's success to rise to new heights. He's also an author (America: The Book is available now) and has become so elite that he won't set foot in VH1 any time soon. Now, Ed wants to take on a new challenge: toppling Penn's a cappella groups.
I heard that 87% of your audience is stoned. Is that number too low?

I think that whoever generated those numbers was zooted at the time. Where did you read that?


I think it was Bill O'Reilly.

He was waxing philosophic about the show and pulled that number out of his derriere. Comedy Central actually did some research and found out that the average viewer of The Daily Show is more informed, more educated and more affluent than the average viewer of The O'Reilly Factor. So go figure! I don't know if that's any indication of who's getting stoned or not.


Do you think people watch The Daily Show for news?

I don't think anybody is like, "Oh I gotta figure out what's going on in the world, I think I'll tune into Comedy Central." But I do think that people who watch our show wind up thinking that maybe they get a smattering of topical information. But at the end of the day, that's neither our objective nor should it be anyone's goal in watching our show. And if it is they're sorely mistaken. But I think it's a flawed statistic. You wouldn't get our show unless you were familiar with other news outlets. Our show is funny only if you are aware of what's going on already. And if you're aware of news conventions. And if you're extremely high.


How much work did you do on the new book?

I wrote the whole thing. The whole book is by Ed Helms.


Does the "I'm an author" line work on women?

It's getting me so much trim, I can't even tell you. Girls love nerds who hole up in their offices and write things. They love that. There's nothing better to get a girl's top off than to sit in your office and stare at your computer for 12 hours and ignore all of your social obligations and your friends and your parents.



What makes up a day of work at The Daily Show?

Basically, we come in and we watch Fox News all day and then we just take all the transcripts from Fox News and we read that, but with a little twinkle in our eye. The show is literally daily, so it's a pretty well-oiled machine at this point. The writers come in early, they get assigned different headlines to work on. Correspondents roll in whenever the hangover wears off and usually we're working on a field piece ... If we're coming on the show that night doing a chat, we might jump in with the writers and help out with that, or not, depending on our availability or whether or not we have a productive relationship with that particular writer ... We're all comedians, so we're all very socially dysfunctional, so there's a tremendous amount of tension at all times.


Have you ever had any --

By the way, I was kidding about the tension. This is a pretty fun place to work.


Have you ever had any problems with a field piece subject?

Almost invariably. It happens all the time. A lot of people think they know the show because someone has told them about it or they've seen an episode or two. Even if they've seen a field piece, they think, "Oh, I'm not as dumb as that guy." But they don't realize how good we are at what we do. I don't mean that in a horn-tootin' kind of way, I just mean that we're very adept at manipulating what we want ... By and large, people like the segment at the end of the day. Even if it makes them look silly, they got their message out there and they were on The Daily Show. They have a pretty good attitude usually.


Are politicians game to joke around with you, or wary of being made to look silly?

Well, they're both. In other words, they're very wary of being made to look silly on the show, and therefore they're totally game to fool around with us, which means that we won't get anything funny out of them. If they're jokey, then like who wants to see that? There's nothing ironic or fun about a politician who wants to joke around with you. It's a little bit of a hurdle sometimes.


Do you ever think of rooting for a side during the election for the good of the show?

Absolutely not. That's not because I'm devoid of political convictions, I totally have those convictions. But the other thing ... is that no one is not full of shit. No matter who wins whatever race, be it a local school board district race or the race for the presidency of the United States, there are issues that those politicians will put forth that are nothing but bullshit. If you're asking if I root for things in order to have fodder for the show, it doesn't matter because I can count on the fact that there will always be fodder for the show, no matter who wins what. How cynical is that? Doesn't that make you want to run out and run for office?


Definitely. Do you pay attention to how much you skewer either side?

Are you asking if we're fair and balanced? Keep in mind that you're asking a comedy show if we're fair. I don't think fairness really has anything to do with what we're doing ... We like to call out people's bullshit. Fortunately, both sides are supplying backhoe loads full of bullshit. So, there's no shortage. It's not hard to stay in the middle of what's going on because you can pluck a juicy shit apple off of each tree. Isn't that a great metaphor?


Did everyone know you at the conventions?

Yeah, a lot of people at the conventions knew who we were. A ton, in fact. The thing about a convention is it's really no different from a Star Trek convention or a Star Wars convention or a Medieval Knights convention. The people who show up at a convention like that are the nerds of that particular field of interest. So, you go to either of the political conventions, you're dealing with the Republican nerds and the Democratic nerds because they're the most devoted and loyal. And I don't mean that in a pejorative way, I actually kind of mean it in a slightly endearing way ... People who are political nerds, a lot of them watch our show. Walking around those conventions, it was sometimes hard to get our work done because a lot of people knew who we were.


Have you ever been on any of the VH1 shows? It seems like there's a Comedy Central shuttle that goes there.

Well, if you look closely, you haven't seen any of us on those shows in a while. We all did a handful of them and we haven't done any of them since.


Why not?

We have a job here, so that's paying the bills. So there's not a lot of motivation to head over to MTV and do some work for free. Does that sound very mercenary? First of all, I find those shows kind of annoying, and so I don't like to think of myself as particularly annoying ... God knows I'm annoying as hell, but if I can minimize that in some way by not appearing on those shows, maybe I have a chance.


Your biography mentions your love for your banjo. Can we expect an album any time soon?

Yeah. I'm in a group called The Lonesome Trio. We have recorded some music. Don't know when it will be released, but I'm sure it will go platinum when we do.


Do you do much stand-up any more?

The Daily Show is a full-time job, it's five days a week, full day, every day, so it's difficult to do stand-up ... In the last few months, I've been making a concerted effort to get the stand-up going on again ... Is Penn looking for the comedic stylings of Ed Helms, perhaps?


Possibly, but you'll have to compete with a lot of a cappella.

I'll share the stage with four or five a cappella groups. I can hold my own. [Sings a few notes.] Pretty good, right?


You could compete. Who's the better movie actor, Steve Carrell or Jon Stewart?

Steve Carrell, far and away. I think Jon Stewart would jump at that answer as well. Steve Carrell is a hilarious actor. Have you seen Jon Stewart's movies?


Who would win in a Daily Show Correspondents Brawl?

Samantha Bee. She'd kick all of our asses. She's got this weird Canadian Kung Fu that you just can't fuck with.


Friday, October 22, 2004

Remember last night's TDS when Ed was talking about the head guy from Coors running for something (Congress?) in Colorado? Remember a few months ago I brought up that Ed was going to be in a Coors ad in the Ed blog (no of course you don't because nobody reads that)? And then like after the ad was shot, Mr. Coors decided to run for congress, and since he was in the ad that Ed's in, the ad was never shown.

Well, during the report last night, the camera did a close up on Ed and I thought maybe Ed would make a remark about the ad that he did that was never aired.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

A comedian who is anything but pusillanimous
By Aaron Seligman
Published: Wednesday, October 20, 2004
Article Tools: Page 1 of 1




"The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" is one of the most popular shows in America, by the standards of mainstream media, politicians and of course college students. At the Oct. 8 debate here in Spin Alley, Ed Helms, one of the show's "correspondents," was filming a segment to run on a later show. After he finished with his work (which consisted of, among other things, throwing a temper tantrum on the floor and accusing all the "spinners" of being liars), I caught up with him for a quick interview on his start with "The Daily Show" and how they go about making fun of serious news. The exchange about Jon Stewart's opinion of mainstream news is particularly pertinent considering his recent, much-ballyhooed appearance on CNN's "Crossfire," where he berated Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson for their "partisan hackery" and called Carlson a dick on national television. (The exchange, now being called "Tuckergate," can be viewed on several internet sites.)

Q: Where are you from and how did you end up the Daily Show?

A: I'm from Atlanta, Ga. I'm a comedian, not a journalist. I got my start doing stand-up and sketch comedy.

Q: How has the increased popularity changed/challenged how you do your segments on the show?

A: It's been easier because we can get more access, but it's harder because everyone wants to play along and try to be funny. That's our job, to make everyone funny.

Q: How hard is it to get people to play along and give straight answers to your sometimes absurd questions?

A: The amazing thing I've learned from this job is that most people are really nice. Even when they know we're making fun of them they'll play along to help make the segment work.

Q: Really? They never look at it and say, "Wow, that makes me look really bad?"

A: Some people get scared while we're taping, they're unsure of how it will look. But they are almost always happy to see it in the end. I've only been threatened with a lawsuit once.

Q: What about when we see someone make a ridiculous statement that makes them just look foolish?

A: Well, there are some people [who] will also say anything to get on TV. You also see it in a fishbowl; there is a lot of preparation that goes in ahead of time.

Q: How about the 'headlines' part at the beginning of the show, who comes up with those?

A: We're a very well-oiled machine. Jon has a heavy hand, but we also have a team of 10 writers-excuse me, "Emmy-winning" writers.

Q: From watching the show, it seems apparent that beneath the jokes, Jon Stewart is really angry at the mainstream media for being too easy on politicians. Do you agree, and how do you see your show's role in relation to other media?

A: First, we're a comedy show, not a news show. Second, I do agree that the media can be kind of pusillanimous at times.

Q: I'm sorry, they can be what?

A: "Meek," you can say "meek." It really is devastating to the public when the press lets people get away with not answering questions.

Q: Last question, what did you think of the Wash U campus?

A: Bad last question; I just came in for the debate, so I haven't seen much at all. I would love to come back some time and do a stand-up show for you guys, though.





-----

I feel sorry for the TDS correspondents, they get asked the same damn questions over and over again.

A comedian who is anything but pusillanimous
By Aaron Seligman
Published: Wednesday, October 20, 2004
Article Tools: Page 1 of 1




"The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" is one of the most popular shows in America, by the standards of mainstream media, politicians and of course college students. At the Oct. 8 debate here in Spin Alley, Ed Helms, one of the show's "correspondents," was filming a segment to run on a later show. After he finished with his work (which consisted of, among other things, throwing a temper tantrum on the floor and accusing all the "spinners" of being liars), I caught up with him for a quick interview on his start with "The Daily Show" and how they go about making fun of serious news. The exchange about Jon Stewart's opinion of mainstream news is particularly pertinent considering his recent, much-ballyhooed appearance on CNN's "Crossfire," where he berated Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson for their "partisan hackery" and called Carlson a dick on national television. (The exchange, now being called "Tuckergate," can be viewed on several internet sites.)

Q: Where are you from and how did you end up the Daily Show?

A: I'm from Atlanta, Ga. I'm a comedian, not a journalist. I got my start doing stand-up and sketch comedy.

Q: How has the increased popularity changed/challenged how you do your segments on the show?

A: It's been easier because we can get more access, but it's harder because everyone wants to play along and try to be funny. That's our job, to make everyone funny.

Q: How hard is it to get people to play along and give straight answers to your sometimes absurd questions?

A: The amazing thing I've learned from this job is that most people are really nice. Even when they know we're making fun of them they'll play along to help make the segment work.

Q: Really? They never look at it and say, "Wow, that makes me look really bad?"

A: Some people get scared while we're taping, they're unsure of how it will look. But they are almost always happy to see it in the end. I've only been threatened with a lawsuit once.

Q: What about when we see someone make a ridiculous statement that makes them just look foolish?

A: Well, there are some people [who] will also say anything to get on TV. You also see it in a fishbowl; there is a lot of preparation that goes in ahead of time.

Q: How about the 'headlines' part at the beginning of the show, who comes up with those?

A: We're a very well-oiled machine. Jon has a heavy hand, but we also have a team of 10 writers-excuse me, "Emmy-winning" writers.

Q: From watching the show, it seems apparent that beneath the jokes, Jon Stewart is really angry at the mainstream media for being too easy on politicians. Do you agree, and how do you see your show's role in relation to other media?

A: First, we're a comedy show, not a news show. Second, I do agree that the media can be kind of pusillanimous at times.

Q: I'm sorry, they can be what?

A: "Meek," you can say "meek." It really is devastating to the public when the press lets people get away with not answering questions.

Q: Last question, what did you think of the Wash U campus?

A: Bad last question; I just came in for the debate, so I haven't seen much at all. I would love to come back some time and do a stand-up show for you guys, though.





-----

I feel sorry for the TDS correspondents, they get asked the same damn questions over and over again.

A comedian who is anything but pusillanimous
By Aaron Seligman
Published: Wednesday, October 20, 2004
Article Tools: Page 1 of 1




"The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" is one of the most popular shows in America, by the standards of mainstream media, politicians and of course college students. At the Oct. 8 debate here in Spin Alley, Ed Helms, one of the show's "correspondents," was filming a segment to run on a later show. After he finished with his work (which consisted of, among other things, throwing a temper tantrum on the floor and accusing all the "spinners" of being liars), I caught up with him for a quick interview on his start with "The Daily Show" and how they go about making fun of serious news. The exchange about Jon Stewart's opinion of mainstream news is particularly pertinent considering his recent, much-ballyhooed appearance on CNN's "Crossfire," where he berated Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson for their "partisan hackery" and called Carlson a dick on national television. (The exchange, now being called "Tuckergate," can be viewed on several internet sites.)

Q: Where are you from and how did you end up the Daily Show?

A: I'm from Atlanta, Ga. I'm a comedian, not a journalist. I got my start doing stand-up and sketch comedy.

Q: How has the increased popularity changed/challenged how you do your segments on the show?

A: It's been easier because we can get more access, but it's harder because everyone wants to play along and try to be funny. That's our job, to make everyone funny.

Q: How hard is it to get people to play along and give straight answers to your sometimes absurd questions?

A: The amazing thing I've learned from this job is that most people are really nice. Even when they know we're making fun of them they'll play along to help make the segment work.

Q: Really? They never look at it and say, "Wow, that makes me look really bad?"

A: Some people get scared while we're taping, they're unsure of how it will look. But they are almost always happy to see it in the end. I've only been threatened with a lawsuit once.

Q: What about when we see someone make a ridiculous statement that makes them just look foolish?

A: Well, there are some people [who] will also say anything to get on TV. You also see it in a fishbowl; there is a lot of preparation that goes in ahead of time.

Q: How about the 'headlines' part at the beginning of the show, who comes up with those?

A: We're a very well-oiled machine. Jon has a heavy hand, but we also have a team of 10 writers-excuse me, "Emmy-winning" writers.

Q: From watching the show, it seems apparent that beneath the jokes, Jon Stewart is really angry at the mainstream media for being too easy on politicians. Do you agree, and how do you see your show's role in relation to other media?

A: First, we're a comedy show, not a news show. Second, I do agree that the media can be kind of pusillanimous at times.

Q: I'm sorry, they can be what?

A: "Meek," you can say "meek." It really is devastating to the public when the press lets people get away with not answering questions.

Q: Last question, what did you think of the Wash U campus?

A: Bad last question; I just came in for the debate, so I haven't seen much at all. I would love to come back some time and do a stand-up show for you guys, though.





-----

I feel sorry for the TDS correspondents, they get asked the same damn questions over and over again.

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