Laughing, Learning, and Loving: Behind the Scenes of The Daily Show

February 24, 2010

Laughing, Learning, and Loving: Behind the Scenes of The Daily Show
with Warren Farrell and Corey W. deVos

In today’s cultural climate, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to talk about complex things in the mainstream media without being reduced to a caricature or a talking point.  This is one of the things that makes The Daily Show so extraordinary—it walks the line between laughter and learning in a really fascinating way, often using irony, snark, and cynicism as a “trojan horse” for authenticity.

Warren Farrell was recently featured on a controversial segment of The Daily Show, in which he, the very notion of male inequality, and “men’s work” as a whole were hilariously lampooned by Daily Show correspondent Samantha Bee (watch the full five-minute clip on the right).  This clip has caused a bit of a stir in many online communities, drawing fire from almost every conceivable angle, from “why does The Daily Show hate men?” all the way to “when will men just stop whining and learn how to man up?”

Instant Insight

  • Warren knew from the beginning that The Daily Show was going to lampoon his work and “men’s issues” in general, but did it anyway with good humor and humility.
  • What makes us learn is very often the opposite of what makes us laugh. The Daily Show frequently tries to do both.
  • A total of four hours of interview footage was shot with Warren, only about 60 seconds of which made it into the final clip.
  • When we say “men don’t have as many options as women in today’s world” we are not just talking about economic or political realities, but the interior dimensions of family, emotional availability, and the pursuit of genuine happiness.
  • Samantha Bee was not just satirizing men in this clip, but also women, by playing the role of an “unevolved” or “unliberated” woman looking for a stereotypically macho, beer-swilling guy.
  • In today’s American pop culture climate, white men are the last group we are allowed to make fun of.
  • Tracking men’s progress in the private sphere is somewhat different than tracking women’s progress in the public sphere, because it is much more difficult to quantify interiors and “quality of life” indicators.

Warren was kind enough to share with us his own reaction to the sendup, the first public response he has offered since the clip aired nearly three weeks ago.

What follows is an intriguing and highly entertaining discussion about what it was like to be interviewed by The Daily Show, the many levels of humor at play in the clip, and a clarification of many of the points that ended up being turned into punchlines. Furthermore, Warren reminds us how important it is to live our lives adventurously and to be able to laugh at ourselves at all times—even when we see ourselves being skewered on national television.

At its best moments, The Daily Show fully lives up to, and even adds to, the rich legacy of satire that Jon Stewart’s desk rests upon.  We look to comedians to see what others might not see, to say what others cannot say, to hold a funhouse mirror up to reality—reflecting the truth by distorting the facts, releasing us from the absurdity of existence into the tonic bliss of laughter.  Which is really the only sane response to being human, isn’t it?

Considering the controversy and even outrage this clip provoked throughout many online “men’s group” communities, this might be the most important lesson of them all: hold everything lightly; especially the stuff you take most seriously.

So sit back, watch this clip, and just let yourself laugh for a few minutes. When you are finished, take a listen to Warren’s response below for a fascinating glimpse behind the scenes, behind the controversy, and beyond the laughter.

Click here to see the Daily Show clip.

Listen to Dr. Warren Farrell’s Response

Right click to download
Duration: 44 minutes


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