An intimate and entertaining look at a fake-news program whose caustic, witty alchemy remains missed by many.



A lively oral history of The Daily Show focused on Jon Stewart’s improbable transformation from basic-cable comic to progressive conscience.

New York magazine contributing editor Smith deftly combines narrative with the recollections of people involved with the show at every level, ranging from boldface names like John McCain to correspondents like Stephen Colbert and Ed Helms. Stewart contributes the foreword, concurring with Smith that the show’s popularity resulted from its gradual development of an ethical center: “We never forgot what a privilege it was to have a platform.” Yet the show’s cultural impact was unforeseen when the fledgling Comedy Central network determined to create a parody news show to follow the show’s previous Craig Kilborn–hosted iteration, which “could be mean-spirited.” When Stewart took over in 1998, he ruffled feathers by trading the snarky persona for a political bent that “punched up” at powerful targets. As correspondent Mo Rocca recalls, “[Jon] had resolved that the show needed to have a point of view and couldn’t just be the kid at the back of the classroom throwing spitballs.” Following this backstage drama, the show found its voice during the 1999-2000 presidential contest, during which correspondents like Steve Carell and key writers like Ben Karlin added memorable guerrilla theater–style ambushes to both the torpid campaign and the ensuing tense deadlock. The election of George W. Bush and the horror of 9/11 and the increasingly absurd terror wars that followed set the tone for the show’s dark intensity and explosive popularity over the next decade. As John Oliver recalls about the show’s creative rigor, “Jon’s saying is, ‘If you take your foot off the throat of the show for a second, it will just get up and walk away.’ ” Smith effectively combines these reminiscences with an overall arc covering the show’s technical innovations, high-stakes internal negotiations (including spinoffs like The Colbert Report), and staffers’ contentious relationships, friendships, and shenanigans.

An intimate and entertaining look at a fake-news program whose caustic, witty alchemy remains missed by many.

Pub Date: Nov. 22, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4555-6538-2

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Oct. 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2016

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This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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