Six Degrees: Interview with Lizz Winstead (co-creator, ‘The Daily Show’)

Hey, y’all! I wanted to link this interview with Lizz Winstead, probably best known to the Colbert fans for having co-created The Daily Show and for bringing Stephen on board, although she’s done a number of interesting things apart from that. She has some nice things to say about Jon and Stephen, which should surprise nobody here, but it’s still nice to read them.

From Westword (which has been getting some really cool Q&As lately!):

Q&A With Daily Show Creator Lizz Winstead
Wed Apr 23, 2008 at 06:57:36 AM

. . .

WW: Obviously, you’re well-known for co-creating The Daily Show, and the program’s gone through changes aplenty since you were the head writer there. But how close is what people watch now on a nightly basis to your original conception of the show?

LW: Well, the format is almost identical – the way it’s set up. And I’m glad Jon [Stewart] took it in the direction he did, and I knew that he would. Basically, what was great is, when we first launched, we would always have constant philosophical debates about how political the show should be. The network wanted it to be a little more of a hybrid of entertainment and politics, and I always thought politics was the way to go, because if you’re going to satirize, it’s nice to have big, powerful people to satirize. Sometimes I think when people veer into satirizing entertainment figures and stuff like that, it just gets kind of mean and cruel. Like Britney Spears, I find her to be sort of a tragic figure. I don’t really have anything to say about her because I feel bad for her. She’s a mess. But they thought, “People don’t care about politics. They don’t want to hear that much about it.” And I was like, “I disagree.” So we found a balance there. And then when Jon came in, I think he was more along the lines of the philosophy that I had. He wanted to take it to its full, upright and locked position, if you will, following politics. And as we know, he’s made this amazing creation.

WW: You worked with him on his original talk show that predated The Daily Show. Did you see that side of him then? Or did it surprise you?

LW: It didn’t surprise me at all. Jon and I have worked on a couple of things. We wrote a pilot together. We hosted Short Attention Span Theater together on Comedy Central. He asked me to come back to The Daily Show a couple of times when he took over, and I was like, “You’ve got this covered, my friend. I’m going to try to do other things.” And then I launched Air America radio. I wanted to bring comedy and social satire to other kinds of venues and arenas. So that was the direction I chose to take. But I wasn’t surprised at what Jon did at all. His comedy has always been infused with political and social satire. He’s always been somebody who loved taking on the powerful. It didn’t matter. It’s really not about whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat. It’s about taking on the big guys and how they’re using their power. If they’re using it for evil, they’re going to get hit.

WW: You mentioned Stephen Colbert. Were you part of the team that brought him and Lewis Black aboard?

LW: Yes, indeed. I am definitely that team. Lewis and I have been really, really dear friends, and he was the first call I made when the show went up. I said, “Dude, do you want to do a weekly segment where you just rant about whatever’s on your mind,” and he said, “Yes.” And Stephen also. Oddly enough, we saw Stephen – he was doing bits on Good Morning America. He was kind of doing funny stuff on there.

WW: Do you take pride in what’s happened with those two, as well as with the show as a whole?

LW: Totally. What’s great about it is, it reinforces that my instincts are pretty good. These people are geniuses all on their own, and I happened to see them and go, “Wow. I think what you do would fit really well with what I’m doing.” …

Read the full interview here

Speaking of Jon Stewart, we mentioned here before that he was scheduled to perform two shows at The Ryman in Nashville on May 9th. According to this, his later show has had to be cancelled. I’m not sure whether that affects any of our readers, but I thought I should pass it along.


  1. Wow, what a great interview. It’s really interesting to hear from one of the masterminds about the beginnings of TDS and all the wonderful talent that has come as a result of it. Shoot the Messenger sounds like a hoot…I’d definitely love to go sometime.

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