1) Don't expect any warm up. Jon Stewart comes into the green room before the show and chats with you for about 3 minutes. The conversation in my case focused exclusively on the contents of my Daily Show gift bag.

2) You'll have about an hour to hang out and get nervous before you go on. A staff member on the show is there to distract you. In my case she told me the story of one former interviewee who sweated so profusely that he nearly shorted out the lavalier microphone. (To be fair to the staffer, the context of the story was -- "that rarely happens.")

3) You will only see the set 30 seconds before you walk on. When they need you, a production assistant will lead you down a series of grim hallways past groups of hipsters (writers perhaps?) hanging out in the break room. You'll be thinking, "this is not very glamorous." Your eyes will be drawn to all "Exit" signs.

4) Do not look at the audience as you walk out onto the set. Look only at the familiar face of Jon Stewart. Know that he will get you through this. Trust in him.

5) Do not think any of the following thoughts: "Everyone I know is watching this." "Whatever happens in the next 5 minutes will live forever on the web." "Better not screw this up."

6) Don't try to be funny unless you ARE funny. If you are not sure if you are funny, assume that you are not and if you try to be in this situation you will look like an incredible jackass because you are sitting next to someone who is preternaturally, almost freakishly,  hilarious.

7) When you start to speak -- large images of your face will appear on monitors around the set. If you look at these images of yourself your mind will freeze up and then explode. Look only at Jon. You'll only have to say a sentence and a half before he jumps in with a zinger.

8) Do not laugh too hard at his zingers. They are for people watching at home. If you start giggling the interview is going to grind to a halt.

9) Bask in the post interview handshake. This is the moment when they are cutting away to commercial and the host leans in to shake your hand and say something just between the two of you. I can't tell you what Jon said to me during those five seconds except to say that it was of a highly personal nature.

10) Try not to open the copious amounts of liqueur in the gift bag* until you are out of the building and safely in the Town Car on your way back to your hotel.


*What is in that Daily Show gift bag? Glad you asked:

-Monopoly Board game.
-One huge bottle of Cherry Flavored Vodka -- in case you want to go get some high school kids hammered after the show.
-One bottle of 1800 Tequila
-A package of those Nespresso packets but no machine by which to actually make an espresso
-One Daily Show Hat
-One Daily Show T-shirt
-One gift certificate to get a professional photographic portrait of your pet -- in case you are ever traveling through NY with your dog.


What did you think of this article?

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  • 2/2/2010 4:46 PM Seth Katzman wrote:
    The gift bag contents are completely lame. Not "ironic" either. What does this reveal about the show?

    On the other hand, I am reading The Harmony of Illusions: Inventing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. By Allan Young, Professor of Anthropology at McGill.
    Reply to this
    1. 2/2/2010 5:00 PM Ethan wrote:
      I ended up leaving most of the gift bag stuff for the maid at the hotel. Hope he or she likes cherry flavored vodka.

      Young's book on PTSD was life changing for me -- at least on an intellectual level.
      Reply to this
    2. 2/12/2010 8:00 AM A. Nonnie Muss wrote:
      I am pretty sure cherry-flavored vodka is ironic in any & every context, even if it is sitting on the floor in an otherwise bare room. But in any case, the show's use of humor is not limited to ironic humor, so why should the gift bag contents be? Particularly when the items are probably contributed by companies seeking publicity, not shopped for by Daily Show elves.
      Reply to this
    3. 2/16/2010 2:26 PM mg wrote:
      I think it says more about the network.
      Reply to this
    4. 2/16/2010 6:06 PM Ty wrote:
      The gift bag should at least be thematic. I hear Bill O'Riley gives his guests a Pocket Bible, a confederate flag and a box of 00 buck.
      Reply to this
  • 2/3/2010 2:47 PM Andy wrote:
    Hi Ethan,

    I've always noticed that guests seem surprised when they first sit down at The Daily Show's guest chair by the fact that the wheels are locked, and they can't roll closer to the table to get comfortable. Variations on this technique are used to unsettle the guest, and give an advantage to the host (lower chair, unomfortable chair, etc).

    Did the staff (or anyone else) warn you about the chair?

    Just curious.
    Reply to this
  • 2/5/2010 12:34 PM Nancy wrote:
    Just so you know, I watched the show and bought your book for my Kindle only two minutes into the interview. I thought you did a great job. (Great book, by the way, thanks.)
    Reply to this
  • 2/12/2010 11:49 AM Jason Sanders wrote:
    Ha ha very nice. Cool to read a bit of the behind the scenes of the Daily Show. Have to agree about the gifts, very disappointing. :( At the experience was unforgettable!
    Reply to this
  • 2/14/2010 2:29 AM Alex Vance wrote:
    Are you kidding me? You have to reveal what he said to you as you shook hands. I need to know. America needs to know.
    Reply to this
  • 2/14/2010 5:31 AM Johnny Riggs wrote:
    A fun read. Thanks.
    I love pieces like this. I've spent my whole life grilling people about details.
    It's probably part of the reason why I became a DJ and ended up interviewing most of my heroes.
    I met Jon Stewart (wasn't he just a tad smaller than you thought he was going to be?**), & I have been around him as he spoke with other people. So I've participated and been a casual observer to "A Conversation With Jon Stewart".
    In every case he's proven to be a very intelligent, funny, nice guy.
    I like backstage stories. I have a million of them, but mine mostly involve decadent behavior & rockstar folk. Stories for another time, kids.
    Talk shows fascinate me, but sadly the people who are on them don't realize how fun the minutiae can be.
    Thankfully, you did.

    P.S. You can erase this postscript. I just wanted to point out a typo that you might want to edit out. (I've worked as a proofreader, so it's in my blood. I'm not trying to be a smartass.)
    In comment #9, it says "expect to say", and it should read "except to say."
    That's it. Beautifully done, sir.

    **- Other famous people who are/were shorter than I expected: Winona Ryder, Eddie Vedder, Kurt Cobain.
    People who were taller than I pictured: Wil Smith, Brad Pitt, Kevin Spacey.
    Reply to this
  • 2/16/2010 6:47 AM Roshan wrote:
    Great article. I too have a fear of public speaking and take 4 public speaking classes a week to slowly conquer it...yet I've never had to speak to such a large audience...these tips will be helpful for if and when I ever do.
    Reply to this
  • 2/16/2010 8:26 AM Classic Steve wrote:
    Good advice, except perhaps for #5 -- simply because telling us not to think about something will defeat the purpose.
    Reply to this
  • 2/16/2010 11:53 AM elmo wrote:
    you have a type in comment #9, that's all: five seconds expect say that it was of a highly personal nature.
    you want except. your 'c' and 'p' need to be switched.
    Reply to this
  • 2/16/2010 12:01 PM Daniel K wrote:
    Whenever I see an interview end and the host leans in to seemingly chat with his guest as they go to commercial, and they always seem to do that, I wonder if the host is actually try to engage in some meaningful conversation since he doesn't have to be cracking jokes for the camera. Or is he simply offering a perfunctory 'thank you', since it looks better on camera if the two of you are still talking versus just silently looking at one another waiting to leave.
    Reply to this
  • 2/16/2010 12:13 PM Dave H. wrote:
    Good list although I am more likely to be struck by lightning than be invited as a guest on The Daily Show. As for the swag, all I can say for most of it is 'Hunh?"
    Reply to this
  • 2/16/2010 1:13 PM Matthew wrote:
    Thank you for writing this. It was insightful and really humorous. I can only hope that one day I get the opportunity to meet with Jon.
    Reply to this
  • 2/16/2010 1:47 PM Anonymous wrote:
    I can't tell you what Jon said to me during those five seconds _except_ to say that it was of a highly personal nature.

    Reply to this
  • 2/16/2010 4:38 PM Daniel wrote:
    Did they stop giving away Rubik's Cubes after Neil deGrasse Tyson wouldn't leave until he had solved it?
    Reply to this
  • 2/16/2010 8:09 PM Jonny wrote:
    I do not expect to ever be in this situation (on the daily show) but I enjoyed this list just the same.

    Jon Stewart is probably my favorite interviewer... although Rachel Maddow is pretty darn good too.
    Reply to this
  • 2/16/2010 8:26 PM Wm wrote:
    11. Never forget that Jon is smarter and better prepared than you are.
    Reply to this
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