Comedians from ‘The Daily Show’ take Center Stage

Kathryn Nicolai, Staff Writer

The University’s annual Center Stage event was held in the Weis Center on Oct. 1 and featured three distinguished comedians from the popular news satire and talk show television program, “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.” Following performances by the University’s improvisational comedy group We Brake for Nobody and sketch comedy group The ’Nell Party in the lobby, the comedians each performed their own stand-up routines.

All three comedians–Adam Lowitt, Roy Wood Jr., and Ronny Chieng–began their comedy careers in college after discovering the courage to perform in front of their peers through comedy groups similar to those at the University.

Lowitt is a four-time Emmy award-winning executive producer and writer for “The Daily Show.” Lowitt’s interest in comedy was sparked when he was exposed to “Seinfeld” and “Saturday Night Live” in his youth in the early 1990s. While he was studying at the University of Florida, a comedian performed on campus who Lowitt described as “just okay.” However, what may not have been stimulating entertainment actually ended up benefiting him.

“That’s the best thing that can happen to you when you’re starting. If you see someone who’s great, you say I’ll never do that,” Lowitt said.

This performance gave him the courage to respond to a flyer in search of performers for a student comedy show. Lowitt has now been employed at “The Daily Show” for 14 years. Starting as an intern in 2002, Lowitt now holds a position as an executive producer/writer.

Wood, a correspondent at “The Daily Show,” also tried stand-up comedy for the first time in college. He was inspired after seeing Lavell Crawford and Bobby Lee perform live. He also credits his initial interest in comedy to “Saturday Night Live,” and to the comedians Sinbad and George Carlin. Wood returned to his hometown of Birmingham, Ala. for his first stand-up performance before performing in front of his peers at his alma mater, Florida A&M University.

Chieng, another correspondent for “The Daily Show,” remembers telling his mother that he wanted to try stand-up comedy when he was a boy watching “Seinfeld.” Eleven years later, during his final year at college, Chieng performed in front of an audience for a campus comedy competition.

“I signed up every year and every year I would chicken out. Then in my final year at university I signed up and I thought ‘now or never,’” Chieng said.

After his first performance, Chieng said he was hooked.

A typical work day at “The Daily Show” is hectic.

“Every day I think, how are we going to do this?” Lowitt said. As correspondents, Chieng and Wood have two major roles—acting as “experts” for Noah to interview or hosting field report segments. If they are not out field reporting, Chieng, Wood, and Lowitt typically begin their workdays at 9:15 a.m. For about an hour, the staff watches videos and formulates jokes based on the content shown. This first meeting concludes once the overall message for the day’s show is established. A studio production meeting follows to formulate the show’s execution. The first draft of the show is produced by noon, and at 3:30 p.m. the show is rehearsed for the first time. The script is rewritten throughout the day until 6:30 p.m. when it is aired live.

“The Daily Show” has been on the air for 20 years; in that time, competition in the political satire industry has increased, creating a strong need for original and unique content. Wood confirmed that the content for “The Daily Show” is centered on current events as well as outside information that the staff feels should be included in the conversation.

“If we feel we have a unique take and good jokes, it’s worth being discussed,” Wood said.

Chieng affirmed that conveying the show’s overall message is one of the most challenging aspects of the job.

“That’s the kind of show we do. We have to be funny and have something to say. It has to be authentic,” Chieng said.

“The goals of the day is to be proud of the work we put up,” Lowitt said.

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