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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Behind the scenes at the ‘The Daily Show’

    Ryan Johnson  columnist
    Ryan Johnson

    “”Does the idea of a voting lottery make you angry?”” asked Dan Bakkedahl, a comedian “”correspondent”” for the popular comedy program “”The Daily Show”” with Jon Stewart.

    “”Yes, sir,”” responded UA law professor Jack Chin.

    “”Angry enough to split these boards?”” Bakkedahl retorted, holding together boards as if Chin were going to split them with a punch. Bakkedahl had been calling Chin “”Jackie Chan”” the entire time he was on camera.

    “”I’m not Jackie Chan,”” Chin said, clearly unnerved.

    As a vocal critic of Arizona’s Proposition 200, the proposal to randomly give $1 million to one voter each election, Chin had been interviewed by The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the BBC. But when a producer from “”The Daily Show”” with Jon Stewart called him, he knew it was a different animal entirely.

    Anyone who has seen “”The Daily Show”” knows how embarrassing it can be, and Chin deserves praise for giving the UA so much free publicity.

    By agreeing to be lampooned, he put himself out to an entirely different demographic. “”The Daily Show”” is one of the most watched cable shows on TV, and is now somewhat famous for being the place many young people go for political commentary. Yet these are not the potheads that conservatives make them out to be. A recent study found that viewers of “”The Daily Show”” were more informed on political issues than viewers of other news shows.

    After agreeing to be featured, Chin soon found Bakkedahl, producer and former Onion writer Janet Ginsburg and a three-person camera and sound crew in his office. Before spending 40 minutes to turn Chin’s book-filled office into a studio, Ginsburg made Chin sign a strong release form.

    “”You sign that they can do basically anything,”” Chin said.

    Ginsburg said that Chin shouldn’t try to be funny, that Bakkedahl was what’s funny. She told Chin to act like he was talking to the most serious interviewer in the world.

    Chin had an idea of what he had gotten himself into even before it started. He had seen the show. He said he went back and watched a couple dozen Bakkedahl interviews. He had a theory – Bakkedahl clips have one victim and one straight person.

    “”If he’s nice to you on camera, he wants you to keep talking, because you look ridiculous.””

    The camera crew filmed Chin as Bakkedahl asked him questions for 75 minutes. But Bakkedahl wasn’t filmed at all. Then the camera crew filmed Bakkedahl for another 75 minutes as he asked the same questions. He often did multiple takes, with Ginsburg telling him to “”take it up a notch”” or “”tone that part down”” for increased comedic effect.

    That’s right, what you see in the final product is mashed together, with the questions taped more than an hour after the answers. The questions are still the same as the ones actually asked, said Chin, but the staggered taping makes it easy for the producers to manipulate the context.

    After the interview, the crew also filmed walking scenes by the Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering building. They even filmed Bakkedahl giving Chin a car in an apparent attempt to convince him that free things are good. Chin got in and drove around the block.

    In the end, Chin’s part of the bit lasted only 45 seconds, and Chin had perhaps five seconds to explain why the bill was bad.

    He has mixed feelings about going on the show. He admired the professionalism of the whole operation, noting Bakkedahl’s skill as an actor. But he admits that the part about him being Jackie Chan snuck up on him. Bakkedahl saved those questions until nearly the end of the 75 minutes.

    When you have to go 75 minutes knowing the funniest minute is going to be on the show, it’s a high-pressure situation.

    But in the end, he didn’t regret it.

    “”We talk to the press to contribute to the legal system, to get the name of the school out there. But there’s no such publicity as bad publicity,”” he said.

    So many professors slave away on research papers that will be read by a dozen people. Chin is part of the cadre of professors that bring the debate into the mainstream, which is ultimately more useful to society. Regardless of whether you support the bill or not, praise Chin for taking the debate to the public and increasing the quality of the discourse.

    Thanks for taking one for the team, professor Chin. And it was quite a laugh to boot.

    Ryan Johnson is a senior majoring in economics and international studies. He can be reached at

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