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It's Funny How Funny Just the Facts Can Be
As for the blogosphere and its rich stew of opinion and invective, Chodikoff will have none of it. "I'll defend the mainstream media," he says. "I trust [information] that has been edited and fact-checked." Without a factual foundation, he adds, the show's jokes "have no meaning."
Chodikoff "sees the whole picture," says Rob Kutner, one of the show's writers. He's "in the news matrix. He spots patterns, trends, the forces of history. He remembers a politician saying the opposite thing three years ago and gets us to that video."
Chodikoff, who grew up outside Philadelphia, was a political science major at Duke who graduated with a few dissimilar passions and interests: politics, sports, journalism and comedy. He learned a bit about journalism and politics as a summer intern for Campaign & Elections magazine in Washington. After a brief post-college stint at CNN, he became a low-level production assistant at ESPN, logging hockey and basketball highlights for "SportsCenter." In short order, he was back to comedy, landing a production job with Conan O'Brien's show on NBC.
While reading a newspaper one day, he spotted -- yes, in the 23rd paragraph -- a brief mention about the start-up of a new Comedy Central program that was to combine politics and comedy and would air daily, a la "SportsCenter." Chodikoff figured that was right up his alley. He was hired as a researcher before the first "Daily Show" aired in mid-1996.
Over time, Chodikoff's role on the show has evolved. He frequently pitches comedic ideas to the writers, and the writers pitch back. Kutner, Stewart and the other writers rely on Chodikoff to research their hunches and would-be story ideas. A recent example: One writer wanted to know whether any New York stores were making any special plans for the pope's visit; Chodikoff found that Build-a-Bear was selling bears wearing religious-themed T-shirts.
Much of the job, Chodikoff says, is based on intuition developed over a dozen years of working on the show. "I know what makes a good setup for the writers," he says. "I know what kind of stuff Jon can smash into the right-field seats."
Chodikoff insists there's no agenda behind any of it, that he's part of a comedy show, not a crusade. "The show is anti-Establishment," he says. "Bush happens to be the president. He's the one in power."
He adds: "I want to make the smartest, funniest show possible. I don't wake up every morning saying: 'I gotta get him. I gotta get him.' "
Javerbaum, the executive producer, suggests that a key function of "The Daily Show" is to make connections and highlight news that the news media don't. TV news, in particular, he says, "doesn't have an interest in rocking the status quo because it's entrenched with the status quo. We think all of these [networks] are really, really bad at what they do. My opinion is they suck at their jobs."
Which, if true, makes Adam Chodikoff's job a whole lot easier.