'Daily Show' kicks off visit to D.C.

Members of Monday's studio audience for "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" talk about their expectations for Saturday's rally hosted by comedians Stewart and Stephen Colbert.
By Dan Zak
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 26, 2010; 12:30 AM

In its first taping of the week in Washington, "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart" went straight for the capital's funny bone -- by making a slew of jokes at the expense of NPR, which created controversy last week by firing news analyst Juan Williams.

Williams was guilty of violating NPR's "never-say-anything-interesting policy," correspondent Samantha Bee said during the show's opening segment, which also spotlighted Fox News's visceral reaction to the firing.

"NPR, you just brought a toteful of David Sedaris books to a knife fight," said host Jon Stewart, after running clips of Fox's talking heads railing against the dismissal.

The taping, which began about 6 p.m. Monday at Sidney Harman Hall on F Street NW (to air five hours later on Comedy Central), kicks off the show's weeklong Midterm Teapartyganza -- which includes four more tapings in the District, with President Obama as a guest Wednesday, and culminates with Saturday's Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear on the Mall.

Before the taping, Stewart warmed up the crowd of about 400 by taking questions.

What part of Saturday are you most excited about?

"Flying home," Stewart said, to sad chuckles from the assembled Washingtonians. He added: "We don't know what we're doing, but we're doing it up."

Someone asked about his wardrobe, and another asked about the political significance of his red tie.

"What's wrong with this [bleeping] town?" Stewart said, to uproarious laughter.

At which restaurants will he be dining?

"I saw that Ollie the Trolley thing," Stewart said. "That looked nice."

The extravaganza began with a pre-taped segment featuring "a news team lost in a strange city," and from there, Washington jokes flowed like bailout money. Stewart referred to the set -- a desk seemingly modeled on the Capitol dome, colonnade and Corinthian columns behind it -- as perfect for a "'West Wing' porno parody."

The camera later jumped to correspondent Jason Jones, who pretended he was stuck in a "six-lane traffic circle" that "leads to another goddamn traffic circle."

Correspondent John Oliver noted the omnipresence of marble columns in the city -- "simultaneously magnificent and useless" -- and added, "I would rather be back in Iraq."

Stewart grilled his guest, White House economic adviser Austan Goolsbee, on the administration of TARP, the nation's festering unemployment rates and Democrats' role in legislative stagnation. Goolsbee mostly deflected questions by saying that recovery takes time and emphasizing that he's "just a policy guy."

After the taping, Stewart thanked the audience, noting that attendees seemed "very, very policy-oriented. We're not used to people nodding, like, 'Oh, I worked on that bill.' "

Before leaving the stage, Stewart took one final comment from the audience.

"As an NPR journalist," said a guy in the back section of the theater, "I just want to thank you for that colonoscopy."

With the punch line to the evening delivered by Washington itself, Stewart exited stage right.

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