The Daily Show with Jon Stewart submission

August 19, 2012


Edited remote written for The Daily Show (Jon Stewart, John Oliver)

JON: In the month of October, three presidential debates and one VP debate will be held and televised to millions of potential voters. This year the debates have gotten some pre-game attention as some question whether they address the interests of all citizens. John Oliver has this story.


JOHN: The debates are, of course, the centerpiece of campaign season. It is then that the candidates must straightforwardly confront the thorny issues that they can avoid in their carefully crafted speeches on the campaign trail. That is why it is dismaying to learn that the organization that runs the debates—the Commission on Presidential Debates—was recently strong-armed by outsiders with their own agenda. Ultimately, they did, in fact, buckle under the pressure: They chose a moderator for the next debate that represents this infiltrating special interest group. I spoke with the political thugs who contaminated this sacred American institution.

Insert of John interviewing the high school girls who set up the petition to get a female moderator for the debates. The girls explain why they did it: There has not been a female moderator since 1992.

JOHN: (to girls) Shouldn’t the debate moderator represent the citizens of the United States? No, I mean the dominant citizens. The ones best able to make the decisions. In other words, the ones who vote. Wait, women are allowed to vote?

JOHN: As it turns out, women have been given permission by the government to vote in presidential elections. Even more shocking is that up until 1988, the debates had actually been run by this estrogen-imprinted special interest group, in the form of the League of Women Voters, biasing not only the selection of moderators, but damaging the integrity of the debates; disposing of the concept of fairness like so much uneaten food on the dirty dishes of the government’s supper after a hard day at work.

Insert of interview with historian about the history of the debates. Historian explains that in 1988, the League of Women Voters withdrew its sponsorship of the presidential debates after the Bush and Dukakis campaigns secretly agreed to a “memorandum of understanding” that would decide which candidates could participate, which individuals would moderate, the height of the podiums, etc. The League rejected the demands and released a statement, saying “the demands of the two campaign organizations would perpetrate a fraud on the American voter.”

JOHN: That’s when the men came to the rescue, forming the Commission on Presidential Debates. The organization, the only one allowed to hold the official presidential debate, is run by the Democratic and Republican parties, assuring fairness and impartiality to any citizen vying for the position of president of the United States.

Insert of historian explaining that any candidate not in the Democratic or Republican party is shut out of the debates, and how the two major candidates are forbidden by contract to take part in any other debate. Questions and topics are approved by both parties, and the participants of “town hall” debates are also approved by both parties. Walter Cronkite referred to the CPD debates as an “unconscionable fraud.”

JOHN: (to historian) So Walter Cronkite…was that a woman?

JOHN: The young saboteurs won this round. Folding under pressure from the three high school sophomores, the CPD appointed newswoman Candy Crowley as the moderator for the “town hall” debate, where she will preside over the pre-fabricated questions of pre-screened audience members covering pre-approved topics. So much for “all men are created equal.” Back to you, Jon.



Edited remote written for The Daily Show (Jon Stewart, Jason Jones)

JON:  The United Nations recently added to its list of what it calls “intangible heritages”—unique traditions of the world—that are in need of preservation amid globalization and urbanization. The UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage compiles its annual list for fear that these traditions will disappear as cultures around the world become modernized. Among the honorees this year are the Spanish flamenco dance, the hand-woven rugs of Azerbaijan, the Ojkanje singing of Croatia, and of course…Mexican food.  [NB:  this is true]  …Because the urbanization of the Americas has clearly been shown to be diminishing the population’s taste for tacos and guacamole, as is evidenced by the closing of the Taco Bell on Second Ave and 94th Street. [NB: which really did shut down]  Surprisingly, none of the “intangible heritages” listed by the UN originated in the United States.  Senior American anthropology correspondent Jason Jones brings us an exploration of some of this country’s local traditions that may have been overlooked.


Jason is walking along a run-down inner-city street, with kids playing in the background.

JASON:  The folk dances of India; the storytellers of Nigeria; the silk craftsmanship of China.  These are the practices that come to mind when we speak of the need to preserve traditions and customs that, with the march of time and technology, may be lost to future generations.  But seldom do we think of the United States as a province of national treasures such as these.  After all, this country has only been inhabited by what we consider to be actual people for several hundred years.  That’s why anthropologists who study the United States are saying, “Hey, look around you.  Traditions are everywhere.”  These researchers fear that many local customs may face extinction if we do not step back from our busy, high-tech lives, and appreciate that which is uniquely American.  North American.  But not Canadian or Mexican.

Jason is on another block, and as he speaks the camera pans up to the telephone wires.

JASON: One tradition that originated in these United States is a custom known as “shoefiti.”  Shoes—usually sneakers—are tossed up to a telephone line, where they hang sometimes for years, completely out of reach of passersby.  This practice can be found throughout the United States, usually in urban environments. Its purpose remains one of American anthropology’s greatest and most tantalizing mysteries.

Insert of Jason asking varying kids about the purpose.  Probably will get a range of answers.

JASON: Dr. TK, a professor of urban anthropology, studies American traditions at the University of TK.

Insert of Jason interviewing anthropologist, Jason talks about inner city youth as if they are actually an exotic native tribe and the shoes as if they must have some important/odd significance.

JASON: Shoefiti, as it is practiced in its country of origin, is slowly disappearing due to the diminishing need for telephone lines as this country barrels into an era of wireless communication.

Insert of anthropologist lamenting the demise of urban traditions.  Jason is overly upset, lamenting the disappearance of telephone lines. “Where will people advertise for garage sales?  What do we expect the birds to land on now?”


Jason is in an empty, typical American college-type bar.

JASON:  Recent trends in the American diet threaten a much-beloved coming-of-age ritual.  Traditional American meals have always been crafted via the strengths our peoples are most famous for—ingenuity and invention—allowing us a culturally sophisticated menu of powdered, synthetic, and engineered cuisine.

Insert of camera panning down grocery store aisle with powdered mac and cheese, Chef Boyardee, etc.

JASON: Today, gimmicky diet fads are influencing the younger generation, pulling them away from our traditional ingredients and cooking methods.  Children are being raised on a diet of uncrafted foods, such as dirt-grown fruits and vegetables, or unprocessed sauces and meats.

Insert of little child biting into carrot stick, looking unhappy; another child eating healthy food from a plate.

JASON: Sales of goods associated with classic American cuisine are plummeting.

Insert footage of racks of Yodels and Twinkies untouched as a mother reaches for bananas.

JASON: All of this has anthropologists especially worried about an indigenous coming-of-age drinking custom that relies on traditional flavored chemical powders developed on our shores:  The Jell-O shot.

Insert of someone doing a Jell-O shot.

JASON: Jell-O shots were developed in the United States in 1862 [NB: true].  Because the brand name Jell-O didn’t exist and Jell-O powder was yet to be developed, Jell-O shots were made using gelatin, an almost entirely tasteless, gloppy substance made from the collagen of boiled bones, connective tissues, skin and intestines.

Insert of someone making actual animal-derived gelatin.

JASON: The rainbow-dyed, quivering coagulation that we know as the Jell-O of today was invented 80 years later. Since the custom of ingesting vodka-infused Jell-O reached its peak in the 1980s, sales of Jell-O have plummeted; the variety of flavors grievously diminished. Additionally, the traditional Jell-O shot is slowly being replaced by such novelties as vodka snorting and the “eye shot.”

Insert of someone doing an eye shot (pouring vodka over eye).

Insert of Jason interviewing drunk college guys about the decline of Jell-O shots. Significance to their transition to adulthood? What do they think of the shot disappearing from bars?


Jason is strolling through the contemporary arts hall in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

JASON:  The finest museums in the United States hold the treasures of Europe and Asia, along with some of the giants of high art from our own land, such as Jackson Pollack or Andy Warhol.  While these great works still sell for millions, the folk art of this country is, I’m sad to say, going the way of the Banner-tailed kangaroo rat.  …Which is going extinct.  I’m of course talking about the celebrity portrait sidewalk sketch artist.

Jason is walking along the streets around the south end of Central Park past sidewalk portrait sketch artists w/ images of Johnny Depp, Justin Bieber, etc.

Jason chats with the artists, asking how they choose their celebrities, why there are less of them than there used to be, and questions that an anthropologist might ask, like how the tradition started and how it was passed down from generation to generation.

JASON:  Losing these old-world traditions not only impacts the craftsman and folk-practioners.  It impacts the lives of future generations.

Insert of anthropologist talking seriously about how losing tradition is tragic.

Jason walking near Central Park.

JASON:  The cultural heritage of the United States says a lot about us as a people, Jon.  To preserve our culture is to preserve our very being.

Jason holds up a not-great-at-all street-sketched portrait of himself.