making sausage

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Every weeknight, Jon Stewart gets behind the desk of The Daily Show and tells jokes. Cutting, hysterical, relevant jokes that Stewart and his staff have spent hours working over, and then rewriting up until the last minute before air. While reporting the cover story on Stewart and The Daily Show for this week’s magazine, Chris Smith sat in the post-run-through rewrite room for the show’s August 12 episode, listening in while Stewart and staffers tightened, massaged, and riffed on a segment of “Indecision 2010” about the primary defeat of Karen Handel, a gubernatorial candidate in Georgia. Read the transcript of the meeting below as Stewart and some of his writers work to perfect part of the segment, and then watch the clip that resulted from all that brainstorming. Now you know how your Daily Show sausage — and gay monsters — get made.

In the rewrite room, Stewart sits with head writer Steve Bodow, and co-executive producers Rory Albanese and Josh Lieb.

Stewart: Back on-camera, “In this time of anti-incumbent angry proxy fervor, I think we know how this turns out.” And then just cut to them saying, “Karen Handel lost.”

Lieb: Someone made the point earlier, Handel and Deal, it sounds like a buddy-cop movie, right? Handel and Deal!

Albanese: What’s the deal with Handel!

Lieb: Looks like Handel’s going to have to deal with handling, that … what happened?

Stewart: He’ll have to Handel with care the deal … what’s the deal with Handel’s deal? I guess Handel’s “Messiah” turned out to be a deal-breaker …

Albanese: I don’t know how Deal is going to Handel this situation or how Deal is going to Handel …

Stewart: I guess Handel’s “Messiah” … I mean, what’s the deal …

Lieb: I am so confused …

Stewart: What’s your Handel …

Albanese: Deal? A deal-breaker.

Stewart: [Pause.] How does Sarah Palin lose a proxy war?!

Albanese: She’s a fucking grizzly bear!

Stewart: She’s a grizzly bear!

Albanese: Ain’t nothing in Georgia that could kick a grizzly bear’s ass! What do they have in Georgia that could kick a grizzly bear’s ass?

Lieb: The gay monster! Woooo-oooooo! Kick a grizzly bear’s ass …

Albanese: Gay monster, a Liberace face on …

Stewart: A Liberace face on like a yeti, or something.

Bodow: I think actually the way you gotta do it is like a Where the Wild Things Are head on a Liberace body, like in the bedazzled clothing or something. Or what’s-his-face throwing a bucket of confetti with a werewolf head ….

Stewart: The gay monster … you know what, fuck it, go Liberace on a …

Albanese: You want to do, like, a three-headed monster, like a Liberace’s head, Elton John’s head …

Stewart: Uh, yeah, but then you’re going to make it about them. At least Liberace just makes it seem ridiculously fictional …

Albanese: Okay, yeah, a Liberace’s head on … want to do the famous Sasquatch photo? The blurry one, with a Liberace hat on? … [To production staffers.] I know you guys are slammed, but if we could just give you a very basic mock-up—well, what we think is basic—’we just need Liberace’s head on a monster’s body. [Laughter.] So the idea is, if there’s a preexisting monster’s body, maybe from that new werewolf movie or Where the Wild Things Are, one of the bodies of those creatures, just stick Liberace’s head on it.

Bodow: You don’t have to do anything else to it.

Stewart: Or if you just want to do one of them and just give them a gay-pride flag.

Lieb: Yeah, don’t even give them a Liberace face, just the Where the Wild Things Are holding a rainbow flag.

Albanese: Yeah, I don’t think a lot of people know Liberace’s gay, I think we should be careful with outing him.

Lieb: Oh, the gay monster.

Albanese: He could kill a grizzly with a glance, break it in half. The gay monster.

Lieb: He beats the grizzly monster every time. In the conservative game of rocks, paper, scissor, gay monster beats grizzly every time.

Now watch the aired result, starting from the 3:08 mark and ending at the 4:03 mark.

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See How a Daily Show Segment Is Made