“The Best Idea Wins”: ‘THR Presents’ Q&A With ‘The Daily Show’

“The Best Idea Wins”: ‘THR Presents’ Q&A With ‘The Daily Show’

When The Daily Show correspondent Roy Wood Jr. thinks about the last year of work on the comedy news program, he thinks of Best Buy. As the team responsible for putting out the show — especially the staffers in the technical departments like directing and editing — was forced to do so without the high-tech spaces they’re used to, they pivoted just like the rest of us. “If it was at Best Buy, it was in our house,” he joked during a recent THR Presents panel, powered by Vision Media. “So imagine you have a whole team creating a show from Best Buy, and then you put them back in the studio with all the bells and whistles … of course everything was going to be great.”

Wood and his colleagues — Showrunner Jennifer Flanz, writer and supervising producer Zhubin Parang, and fellow correspondent Desi Lydic — gathered (where else?) on Zoom to celebrate their recent Emmy nominations (including nods for best writing and best variety talk series) and kept coming back to their time in flux, both the challenges and the positive repercussions. “When we moved from the studio to Trevor’s home, the structure of the show became a lot more editing heavy,” says Parang. “The amount of post-production is something that our editing team, our graphics team, had never had to do before on the show.”

In the past year alone, The Daily Show has gone from shooting the show in host Trevor Noah’s apartment (with just an iPhone to capture it), then in a small studio with no audience, culminating in a return to the original studio with a full audience. Flanz says they “learned to take Trevor’s skill set on use it on camera in a different way,” using the example of finally being able to employ their host’s talent for doing impressions.

One element that has consistently garnered the daily show accolades and viral notoriety, and this year earned them an Emmy nominations (for Lydic’s Foxsplains sement), are the field stories. The Daily Show sends its correspondents out across the country to interview everyday Americans who, often, say extraordinary and appalling thing (“We sent Jordan Klepper out to cover all the Trump stuff because I was scared,” quips Wood) Lydic made sure to point out that the show uses a democratic pitch system, taking suggestions from all departments: “The best idea wins.” She described a field segment process of extreme preparation and research, followed by extreme flexibility when the shoot inevitably does not go according to plan.

“The only thing I can compare a field piece to is clothes shopping,” adds Wood. “You know when you leave the house you wanted jeans. That was your plan. You went to the store to get jeans, and when you were there you saw pants, a coat, and now you’re back home with a suit and two T-shirts and a short set and some jeans and you have to put an outfit together.”

As one of the team members tasked with putting together that outfit, Zhubin adds: “Sometimes you guys go out there and we think you’re buying jeans. And you end up coming back with a sequined hat. And even though we planned for jeans, the sequined hat is gonna be in the outfit. This is the story now.”

This edition of THR Presents is sponsored by Comedy Central.