Category Archives: daily show

Indecision 2012

When I learned that a  crew from The Daily Show with Jon Stewart would shoot a piece in Ellijay, I initially hadn’t considered turning it into a local news story.

They were doing a piece on some Mitt Romney supporters whose over-the-top enthusiasm for the milquetoast Republican seemed newsworthy when I did the piece in November.  One of them, Joe McCutchen, told me Politico had picked up the story (though I can’t find it), which caught The Daily Show’s eye.

Oren Briner (far left), with Joe McCutchen and Al Madrigal

I’m not a big fan of movie-crews-in-our-little-town stories.  But I do like The Daily Show.  The shoot was topical and interesting.  The story would have  ample layers of comedic potential.

McCutchen blessed our presence at the shoot.  So did Oscar Poole, whose barbecue restaurant would host a portion of the Daily Show shoot.  I did not call Comedy Central to get their permission, figuring it would simply give them an opportunity to invite us to stay the hell away.

I figured our presence there could be a source of some conflict, and wanted to minimize it.  I was mindful of the fact that they had set up this shoot.  But Poole had told me the restaurant would be open to the public during the shoot.  This wouldn’t be a closed set.  Mike Zakel and I went and resolved to be respectful of the Daily Show crew.

The conflicts were minimal but amusing.

Producer Oren Brimer arrived at about 1pm and seemed unalarmed when he saw Zakel’s camera on a tripod, wedged discreetly into a notch near a cash register.  McCutchen said he had forewarned the Daily Show crew of our presence.  Zakel introduced himself first.  The response was friendly.

We had already interviewed McCutchen and some other Romney-supporting patrons (Poole was out of state; I’d gotten his permission by phone the previous day).   The Daily Show shoot was an hour behind schedule.  We were anxious to get what we needed and drive back to Atlanta to produce the piece for the 7pm news.  I told Brimer that it wouldn’t take us long to get what we needed and be gone.

However, the crew (two photogs, an audio tech, and correspondent Al Madrigal, who was making his Daily Show debut as a field correspondent with the Ellijay piece) was hungry and intended to order lunch before resuming the shoot.   Brimer had never heard of Brunswick stew.  I described it to him as “basically meat soup.”  He ordered a bowl of it, plus beef ribs.

Brimer was tall, good humored and barely 35, if that.  When I asked him if I could ask him a question for my story (I try to avoid the word “interview” because it sounds nearly synonymous with “interrogate”), he agreeably said:  Sure.  What questions do you want to ask?

I should have responded by answering the question:  I want to ask you why you’re here, and about your approach to the story.

That would have been easy.

Instead I said:  Did you tell Joe McCutchen what questions you would ask him before you interviewed him?  The crew had just finished an interview with McCutchen that McCutchen said had lasted three hours.

Zakel and Richards use their persuasive powers. Photo by George Winn

Fair enough, Brimer said.  Ask away.

I said: OK.  Let me clip this mic on you.

Then Brimer got nervous:  Wait.  Whoa.  We’re just here to eat lunch.  Maybe we could do this later.  He started to turn away, but turned back as I reminded him that we were trying not to linger.  Plus, lunch wasn’t ready yet.  He became agreeable again.  I clipped the mic on him.  The on-camera chat lasted maybe two minutes.

As lunch concluded, the crew turned toward their gear.  Then Brimer unexpectedly told Zakel that he couldn’t shoot them.

He turned to me and repeated it:  We can’t let you shoot us shooting.  We have to keep our methods confidential, he said.

Your “methods?”  I pondered a diplomatic response.

“I can see by your face that this isn’t agreeable to you,” he said to me.  “What’s the problem?  Because we’ll have to shut down the shoot if you insist on shooting us.”

It appeared he was yielding to an instinct which I fully expected:  We’re a big time TV show with a national audience.  You’re local news.  Bug off.  Yet he remained good-natured, even as he indulged the ill-considered Diva instinct.  He could have thrown a fit and and recruited McCutchen and the restaurant management to force us to leave.  To his credit, he didn’t.

He also quickly realized he was backing himself into a corner.  Rather than start an argument– which was tempting–  I gently reminded him that our needs were minimal and our desire to finish and depart was considerable.  We shared a goal here, I suggested.

We came to an understanding.  He blocked out and shot Madrigal and McCutchen walking into the dining room.  We shot it too.  The scene continued for two or three minutes.  For our 90 second piece, it provided ample cameras-on-location footage.  “Got what you need?” Brimer asked me.  I nodded and thanked him.

We got out, and retained our respect for the Daily Show.   They regained control of their set.  Everybody wins.

When asked when the piece would air, Brimer gave two answers.  “Our goal is to air it before the South Carolina primary (which is January 21).”   He also said they were shooting for Thursday January 19.

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Daily No-Show

From the Daily Show: Justin Gray, WAGA

I have many reasons to resent Justin Gray.  I could resent the WAGA reporter for his youth.  I could resent his advanced Ivy League education, or his metrosexual fashion sense.  I could resent his apparent absence of body fat.  But those aren’t the reasons I resent Justin Gray.

I resent Justin Gray because in the last year, the WAGA reporter has made two cameo appearances on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. As regular viewers of The Daily Show, Mrs. LAF and I had the startling experience of seeing them both unexpectedly.

I’ve made appearances on Fox News, CNN, the Weather Channel and the long-defunct NBC News Overnight, anchored by Linda Ellerbee.   With the possible exception of Ellerbee’s show, I’ve never craved the attention of those national entities.  I do crave an appearance on the Daily Show.  It didn’t help that, when Gray popped up, the missus piped up:  “Wow, look.  Justin’s on the Daily Show.  Why aren’t you ever on the Daily Show?”

From the Daily Show

My ongoing failure was highlighted last week, as I came tantalizingly close to Daily Show infamy.  Once again, the Missus and I were languidly seated on the couch, when Stewart launched into a piece about the Civil War.  We saw Stewart introduce Larry Wilmore, who used two clips from an interview I’d done with the spokesman for the Georgia chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.  (Mrs. LAF has recently figured out that the consistently-hilarious Wilmore was the EP for Bernie Mac’s sitcom.  Twelve weeks of maternity leave, coupled with countless hours of daytime television, lead to such revelations).


In my interview, SCV spokesman Dan Coleman derided as “politically correct” the well-documented notion that the Civil War started largely because of a volatile national rift over slavery.  I appeared on-camera in the piece, but The Daily Show apparently concluded it lacked comic qualities.  Wilmore got his laughs.  My long-sought Daily Show cameo continued to elude me.

The WXIA interview segments appear at 2:20 in the video below.

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In fact, WXIA got no props either.  Early in my career, it was a given that any video lifted from another TV entity was fair game, but a “courtesy” graphic was expected.  Early in my career, networks like NBC and CNN would also pay individual local reporters if the network used a piece they’d produced.   Reporters ensconced in low-paying small markets were highly motivated to produce pieces that might entice the network.  Those days, and the “courtesy” graphics, are apparently long-gone.

So why crave an appearance on The Daily Show? I can’t explain it, really.  But it explains my resentment of Justin Gray.

In the clip below, Gray appears at about 4:20.

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Jock Rap, posted with vodpod

“Put down the camera and help somebody!”

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The Daily Show has become a go-to for exposing misleading video in the TV news biz.  When Fox News transposed rally footage in Washington, showing a larger crowd than actually attended, the Daily Show nailed them.

Yet the Daily Show does its own sleight-of-hand in editing a comedy bit featuring footage shot by a Weather Channel photog depicting the Atlanta showflake-and-ice event earlier this month.

Jon Stewart shows video recorded in Midtown at the intersection of Monroe and Virginia, and questions why the photog didn’t “throw down some rock salt” instead of doing his job.

Note how Stewart’s video editors deftly relocated the “look out!” warning so that it’s audible just a few milliseconds before the crash.  Compare it to the actual Weather Channel video here, where the photog’s utterance is heard a full second earlier.

Stewart calls the warning “lame and quite late.”  But the editing makes it seem later than it really is.  Not by much.  But, still.  It’s doctored.

The comedy is solid.  I’m still giggling like a schoolgirl at “the blimp’s on fire.”

But the conclusion is flawed.  The photog had a natural reaction to what he was seeing, and did a far greater service to the community by documenting the icy roads than he would have done by throwing down rock salt, which I’m pretty sure wasn’t in his grab-bag of photog equipment.

As for the sketchy edit:

Nailed ya, Daily Show! Oh, snap! It’s peanut butter jelly time!

(Uh, hello?  Sorry, LAF. Comedy Central is an entertainment channel.  The Daily Show  isn’t a news organization.  They doctor stuff all the time.  Like the graphic you’ve put in the top of the post.)

Oh.  Right.  Never mind.

(I realize I’m a little late to the party with this.  The Daily Show played this clip weeks ago.   The LAF household seems to always have a two-week backlog of Daily Show episodes on the DVR…)