The Comedy Central stalwart debuted in July 1996. The creators Madeleine Smithberg and Lizz Winstead reflect on the early days, when “Dateline” was a main target and Jon Stewart took over from Craig Kilborn.
By Saul Austerlitz
July 21, 2021
And now for your moment of Zen: “The Daily Show” turns 25 years old on Thursday. The scrappy news spoof that debuted on a second-tier cable network has since become a staple of late-night television, a nearly unmatched comedy launchpad and a satirical extension of the thing it was created to mock: the TV news media.WATCHING: Get recommendations on the best TV shows and movies to watch.Sign Up
While most of the show’s huzzahs have been directed toward its hosts, like Jon Stewart and Trevor Noah, and alumni like Stephen Colbert, Steve Carell and Samantha Bee, it is worth remembering that “The Daily Show” was created by two women: Madeleine Smithberg and Lizz Winstead. The writers and producers, veterans of MTV’s “The Jon Stewart Show,” were brought in by Comedy Central in 1995 to put together a nightly news parody.
Originally hosted by the former ESPN anchor Craig Kilborn, “The Daily Show” began as a rejoinder to the excesses of mid-1990s TV news, in a pre-Fox News era when the worst of those extremes was CNN’s increasingly stagecraft-over-substance approach, and NBC’s ubiquitous “Dateline” was the model for TV smarm.
“The Daily Show” didn’t begin to evolve into the institution it has become until Stewart took over as host in 1999. By then, Winstead had already left the show; she departed in 1998 after clashing with Kilborn. She went on to co-found Abortion Access Front, a comedy-driven reproductive health organization, and she is set to premiere a weekly talk show on YouTube called “Feminist Buzzkills Live” this fall. Smithberg left “The Daily Show” in 2003 and went on to executive produce National Geographic’s “Explorer,” among other series. She now hosts a cooking show, “Mad in the Kitchen,” on YouTube.