What Would It Be Like to Be on the Daily Show?

Posted on May 3, 2005

When you dream about getting published does it include an appearance on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart where you show off your book and everyone laughs at your jokes? Last week Freakonomics co-author Steven D. Levitt lived that dream and he explains what it is like to be on the Daily Show in the Freakonomics blog:

Second, sitting in the studio, no matter how hard you to try, it is impossible to imagine that 2 million people are watching what you are doing (actually in my case 2,000,002 because my parents don't usually watch, but they were watching last night). Which is good if you are someone like me who is inherently anti-social and frightened by crowds. It certainly would be more nerve-wracking to do an interview in front of a live audience of 2 million people stretched out over the Mall in Washington.

Third, television, except maybe Charlie Rose, is a terrible medium for trying to talk about books. I had a long interview -- over 6 minutes -- but Stewart was asking hard questions that I couldn't give real answers to (essentially he wanted me to explain regression analysis, but to do it in 15 seconds). One key point in Freakonomics is that we try to show the reader how we get our answers, not just assert that we are right. On TV, there just isn't time to follow that path.

Fourth, it sure is nice to be in front of an audience that is dying to laugh at and respond to anything you say. (For instance, I'm not sure why, but the audience burst out laughing when I mentioned crack cocaine.) I wish the students in my 9 am undergraduate lecture were so responsive. Of course, if my lectures were one-tenth as entertaining as the Daily Show, I bet my students would be plenty responsive.

It sounds like an intense experience. It is great Stewart asks the hard questions, like explain regression analysis in 15 seconds. Stewart frequently has authors on as guests. His show is a good medium for authors and readers.

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