Producer/head writer Dan Amira, supervising producers Max Browning and Elise Terrell, along with correspondent Dulcé Sloan joined Deadline for an MTV Entertainment Group panel on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show With Trevor Noah at the Contenders Television: The Nominees awards-season event. The occasion: the franchise’s 25th anniversary year and yet another Emmy nomination for Outstanding Variety Talk Series.
The show is separately also a 2021 Television Academy Honoree, with the academy saying “It used powerful and innovative storytelling to advance social change and elevate complex issues facing society.” That is pretty lofty stuff for what it refers to as a late-night comedy show, but social issues have always been a part of the franchise, certainly in its Emmy-winning Jon Stewart days, and now for the past few years with Noah at the helm.
Contenders Television: The Nominees — Livestream, Schedule, Lineup
“Comedy is our bread and butter. The most interesting and exciting thing in the pandemic is seeing how much our audience actually wants to learn and is engaged,” Browning said. “I think we’ve raised over $3 million on different platforms just from the variety of topics that we’ve discussed that you may not think have comedic elements to it. And I think that’s something that our show does really well is using the opportunity to bring more voices to the forefront to talk about more issues our audience faces.
“Just with Dulcé and Dul-Sayin this last year some of the pieces we’ve been able to do and work together on have been just awesome. You know whether it’s what Independence Day means for Black people, it’s a different experience, or natural hair, or we did something just about strong female-athlete activism. Just so many interesting topics that may not feel like they’re comedically on the top but there are so many interesting and funny things to learn more about.”
And those ideas came come from absolutely anywhere and anybody, which certainly widens the opportunities the show offers.
“It’s all collaborative,” Sloan said. “So, you know, the great thing about this show is that anybody in the building, well, not in the literal building now, but anyone at the show can pitch. So, whether it’s, you know, one of the correspondents or one of the writers, or someone, you know, we’ve had PAs pitch before, the interns and stuff. So, it’s whatever topic that someone thinks could be a good idea for the show, anyone who works on the show can offer input.’
Terrell has seen a lot of changes in her 17 years on the show, but feels it is better than ever due to its mantra of collaboration.
”We are a very well-oiled machine and we adapt very well where, I think, you know, all of my colleagues have said we’re a really collaborative show — we all lean on each other and all the departments really work together as one team,” she said. “So doing it all from our homes (during Covid lockdown) was a unique challenge because, you know, we had technical challenges, we had communication issues just figuring out how to get everyone on the same page across various platforms. But you know we were the first late-night show to go back to linear TV and that was really important for us because our audience is what keeps us going. We connect with them and they connect with us in a way that really brings so much life to our show, even when they’re not in the room with us. We can tell from our social media interactions with them, you know, we are the most engaged late-night show. So, we need our audience so much and we just felt like they needed our voice.
“We have a very, as you know, unique voice. Trevor is, Trevor — all of our correspondents, there’s no one like our team in late-night, there’s no one. There’s no other show that has a Dulcé and a Ronny, and a Trevor and like these different perspectives. So, we knew that reaching out to the audience was a really important thing from day one in the pandemic. We immediately started doing work on social and then we were the first back on linear. So, it was a challenge but because everyone was just so dedicated to making it happen we rose to the challenge. I think every team figured out how to make it work. Everybody did their job in a completely different way and took on new roles. And I think we were able to shift as best as we possibly could because we just, we wanted to keep that connection going and we never lost it.”
Amira was asked whether the writing has gotten more difficult in a post-Trump presidency world, and whether Joe Biden just isn’t as funny to write jokes about. He sees a plus side to the latter.
“I think objectively he is not,” he said. “I mean, he also doesn’t try to bring attention to himself as much as Trump. So, you know, there will be days or weeks at a time where you don’t even remember Joe Biden because he’s just like doing his job or he’s not on TV or whatever. But yeah, Trump was terrible for the country and also a comedy goldmine. But I actually think it’s been a little bit of a blessing for the show that he’s not in office anymore because like we’ve been talking about there’s so much other stuff that’s not Trump, and when he’s doing his thing every day he, like, casts a shadow over all the other news. We have covered all sorts of topics, from racism against Black farmers to ransomware attacks to NFTs to violence against women, all this other stuff going on. So, yeah, we’re not covering the president as much but we’re covering a much wider swath of things now that Trump is not in office.”
Check back Monday for the full panel video.