An Open Letter To ‘The Daily Show’

Tony Norman, Pittsburg Post-Gazette, June 20, 2006

Dear Jon Stewart and Comedy Central:

Word on the street is that “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” senior correspondent Rob Corddry is a short-timer.

If as expected, his sitcom “The Winner” is picked up for the fall schedule by Fox, Mr. Corddry will be going the way of Daily Show alum Steve Carell whose star turn on NBC’s “The Office” is one of the few genuinely funny shows on network television.

Nobody can begrudge Mr. Corddry his success. When he began his stint on “The Daily Show” in 2002, he was frequently awkward and unfunny. His self-loathing and sweaty forehead comb over was more likely to give viewers the creeps than make us laugh. Well, he showed us.

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This brings me to the true reason for this letter, Jon. As a fan of “The Daily Show” since “Indecision 2000,” I’ve hung in there for six long years waiting for the introduction of a correspondent who breaks with the stereotype that the media is a vast bastion of neurotic WASPs, Jews and closeted homosexuals. Sure, we’re all of those things, but we’re so much more than that, Jon.

At the risk of sounding self-serving and, frankly, tribal, I think America is ready for some soul on “The Daily Show.” The show’s legion of black, Hispanic and Asian-American fans are waiting for correspondents who we can not only laugh at, but identify with through common experiences.

As vital as “The Daily Show” is, it hasn’t done nearly as good a job as other satirical programs at taking advantage of the paradoxically beautiful and tragic history of minorities in America. How could it without a full palette of colors and experiences on tap?

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Not only is there no on-air minority talent on “The Daily Show,” but the Rolodex for booking guests appears to be as white and disproportionately male as those used for Sunday morning talk shows.

If it weren’t for Newsweek’s Fareed Zakaria pushing up the average of dark-skinned faces, the stats would be even lousier.

To its credit, “The Daily Show” has acknowledged its racial parochialism. Earlier this month, John Hodgman, the show’s droll “resident expert,” put his finger on the problem by attempting to demonstrate the similarity of flesh tones to exotically named paint strip samples.

When you, as the show’s host objected to the gimmick as “insulting,” Mr. Hodgman said, “If we turn to one of the show’s black or Latino correspondents [for a demonstration],” you bowed your head in shame pretty quickly, Jon. The audience laughed, albeit timidly. That’s a hopeful sign.

If you need recommendations, a few names come to mind. Toure would be great, as would “CBS Sunday Morning” commentator Nancy Giles. You might even consider recruiting journalists who have charisma and television experience like St. Petersburg Times media critic Eric Deggans or Washington Post fashionista Robin Givhan. Me? Not interested. I just want a comedy show that looks like America.

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