Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The Daily Show: Covering The Election With Comedy

By Alex Lumley

The Daily Show, typically thought of as a comedy program, has spent quite a lot of time covering the 2016 American presidential election. While their coverage extends to a wide variety of topics, much of their focus since the summer of 2015 has been on the people running for the highest office in the free world. It seems that the candidate they’ve covered by far the most is Donald J. Trump, who is now the Republican Party’s standard-bearer.

And who can blame them? Certainly, the Daily Show’s focus on “The Donald” parallels most other major American media outlets. Unlike many other major news venues, though, it seems that the Daily Show spends most of their time covering Trump in direct opposition to him and his ideals. While other news outlets may be focused on trying to stay as objective as possible, Trevor Noah and the rest of his staffers on the Daily Show have no such agenda- they tend to criticize Trump, his supporters, and his ideas far more often than other media outlets do.

And while Noah can occasionally be critical of the Democratic Party and their presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, he spends far less time discussing her on average than he does Trump.

Perhaps most interestingly, the Daily Show’s unique position as a voice outside of the major media corporations like NBC, FOX, and CNN allows it to be more directly critical of other media outlets and personalities as well. While most of the Daily Show’s political coverage is spent discussing the candidates or their supporters, some time is devoted to criticisms of the ways in which the major media outlets are covering the election.

Trevor Noah in Cleveland for the Republican National Convention, interacting with his live audience.

However, like all other major media outlets, the Daily Show had the opportunity to travel to Cleveland and Philadelphia this past July for the Republican and Democratic National Conventions, respectively. Daily Show correspondents were able to gain access to the convention floor and speak with delegates, supporters, and in some case, detractors, directly.

That leads to another interesting contrast between the Daily Show and other major media outlets. Whereas networks like CNN, FOX, and NBC are able to interview candidates and/or their campaigns directly, the Daily Show’s coverage tends to focus more on supporters at rallies, such as in this case when correspondent Jordan Klepper spoke with Trump supporters.

The coverage of that rally itself was intended to be comedic in nature, but almost everything intended to be comedic on the Daily Show doubles as a pointed political message. This story was no different- it’s funny to watch the show point out the perceived hypocrisy of Trump supporters, but the segment also makes a biting political point.

With the election just two months away, the Daily Show’s coverage of the two major candidates is most definitely going to ramp up. What’s uncertain is whether or not the show will pay more attention to third-party candidates- very little coverage has been given to them thus far. 

Regardless, what is certain is that Trevor Noah and his staff will continue to cover the craziness of this election cycle with their unique brand of comedy, and continue to provide a perspective different than that of major media outlets.

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