Fortunately, most every one interviewed—from Stephen Colbert to longtime showrunner Ben Karlin to Sen. John McCain—possesses an A-plus wit ... it doesn’t flinch from digging into the show’s most contentious moments and making the star himself slightly squirm ... in the Age of Trump, the time has never been better to delve into the minds of the masters who became a vital part of our democracy.
Although the day-to-day grind of producing the show often blinded Stewart and his team from the effect they were having outside the studio, the book gives a fuller picture of how their targeted outrage affected the culture ... The book revels in the wonky details of creating a segment: the morning discussion of the day’s issues; the endless drafts and revisions, even the frenzied period after rehearsal ... Along with all these minor detonations, The Daily Show (The Book) offers a satisfying highlight reel of the show’s achievements...Readers of this compelling history will appreciate the sweat behind every joke.
...this book seeks a serious understanding of everything about him, especially the thinking that shaped the show. But Mr. Smith lets hero worship and repetition slow the book’s momentum. And doses of snark from embittered ex-staffers sound like exactly what they are ... He omits transcript material that’s important to the show’s history...It would have been worth the extra space to remind readers what Mr. Stewart sounds like when he’s in a cold fury ... Mr. Smith carefully follows the show’s arc to the start of the war in Iraq and the video-clip milestone that had the show staging Bush vs. Bush debates comparing Gov. George W. Bush’s statements about Iraq with those of President George W. Bush.
Smith weaves an often artful, if occasionally unwieldy, combination of interviews, asides and segues with classic scripted moments from Stewart’s tenure ... It’s an insider's look, for sure, with all the protections and discomfort that affords. Friction and strife between Stewart, staffers, the network and guests are all mined and discussed in detail but with a polite patina that suggests even the most candid moments are a bit muted or get a friendly edit ... deftly recount[s] the way Stewart’s sensibilities, political realities (and unrealities), defining events like 9/11, advances in technology and changes in the television news landscape moved the show from spectator to player.
...only rarely does any actual bitterness spill onto the page. Instead, there’s space dedicated to grindingly banal details like how morning and afternoon meetings were crucial to the show’s success ... The book’s tone can be a bit wide-eyed, too ... Still, the book is a valuable reminder of the show’s role in introducing an era of video-based fact-checking in American politics.
...[a] playful, occasionally riotous, consistently nostalgia-inducing, and sometimes long-winded Kremlinology ... While there are moments when it appears to lean into the idea that Trump would be our next president, big chunks of the early sections come off as tone-deaf to the new reality that this book was not yet aware we’d be living in ... Once you’re closer to the acceptance phase, though, it becomes a lot easier to appreciate this book for what it offers: some of the funniest people in the world telling stories about their job, which happened to be deflating the exact sort of bullshit we are about to be totally awash in ... a book that feels less like a nostalgic romp than a poignant call to arms.
Is The Daily Show (The Book), ahem, fair and balanced? Well, no. The principals here — Stewart especially — are challenged, really, only by themselves and their own self-doubt. But the seeming candor of Stewart in particular gives the book a refreshing amount of depth, particularly regarding backstage drama and questions of double standards. But questions of whether Stewart and his show were even-handed in their handling of the politics of the day misses the point ... in the end, the real measure of the show and the book that bears its name is, did it have a point, and, moreso, was it funny in making it. The answer, on both counts, is a resounding, laugh-out-loud 'yes.'
Unsurprisingly, he comes off awfully well in Smith’s cast-of-dozens chronicle...With a few disgruntled exceptions, practically everybody who ever worked for The Daily Show — and Smith seems to have talked to almost all of them — lauds his decency, creative smarts, and constant drive to bring out the best they had on tap ... Predictably, [John] Oliver — who was on track to be Stewart’s successor until Comedy Central let him slip away to HBO — is the most entertaining contributor to Smith’s collage ... DS was so obviously the signature TV series of its generation that this book’s rare carping voices are almost a relief, in that keeping-things-honest way. If damn near everyone else sounds a bit in awe of what their unlikely Godfather wrought, no wonder.