Jon Stewart and the team of Comedy Central's The Daily Show wrapped up a week of taping in Tampa Friday, with Stewart thanking the audience for their hospitality, and promising to come back to Florida to "visit everyone's grandparents" who live here.
The taping of the show was a high-energy, no social media or photography allowed event that filled the Straz Center's Ferguson Hall almost to capacity.
The Daily Show is part comedy, part satire, and provided a counterpoint to many of the messages coming from the Republican National Convention at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
The also took every opportunity to put Tampa in its targets. In the first show of the week, they lampooned the city's reputation as a haven for strip clubs, humidity and humongous bugs, showing correspondent Samantha Bee in the clutches of a flying, life-sized Palmetto bug.
"Of course Tampa is more than strip clubs, but we're a comedy show," said correspondent Al Madrigal in an interview with FOX 13 Friday morning. "I know they did some stuff the first night, and people were offended that we made fun of Tampa, but it's like, what do you want us to do? We're a comedy show, we're not gonna give you a shout out! We're gonna make fun of the city we're in."
Correspondent Aasif Mandvi is from Tampa, and still has family in the Carrollwood area. He produced a segment for the show about Tampa where he visits his family's home, and goes back to Busch Gardens where worked as an actor. (That segment was dropped from Friday night's show, but Stewart played it for the audience at the Straz Center, and promised to make it available on the web.)
In an interview with FOX 13 Friday morning, Mandvi said covering the convention in Tampa has been a far cry from covering the Republican National Convention in 2008.
"It is very disconcerting this year, because we're getting hugs from Republicans. And last time we were getting thrown out of places, and punched. So it's been a slightly different experience," he said. "Republicans are coming to us and saying, ‘we love your show, we watch it all the time.' "
Mandvi and Madrigal talked about the process of producing stories for the show, saying it usually is not hard to muster passion for the projects they tackle. Mandvi singled out the story he did last year where he went to a press conference, and asked Florida Governor Rick Scott for a urine sample for a drug test.
This took place after the governor's push to have all welfare recipients drug-tested in Florida.
"I felt very passionate about that, because, that piece, as we were developing it, it starts off as, you've been assigned this piece, but then you read about it and get involved with the politics of it, and you start to uncover the hypocrisy, and then you become really passionate about it, and you want to go out there and say something," he said.
At Friday's taping, Mandvi, Madrigal and the show's other correspondents came onstage to greet the audience and take questions. Then host Jon Stewart came onstage to a standing ovation.
"We are definitely coming back to Florida – in the winter!" he said right off the bat, referring to the infamous heat and humidity.
One audience member asked if he had visited any strip clubs. He said no -- and the reason why?
"Twitter," he deadpanned, adding that he and his staff had been working extremely long days at the convention, and that as an "old dude," he was not inclined to go out much anyway.
"You should see me without all the lighting and the makeup. People will walk up to me and say, ‘are you okay?' "
After a few minutes with the audience, Stewart and the crew started the show. The opening segment was largely about actor Clint Eastwood's appearance at the RNC, talking to an empty chair with an imaginary President Obama, which Stewart described as a "fistful of awesome."
"It was 12 minutes of improvisational awesomeness in a week of scripted 'blah'," Stewart said.
Stewart said Eastwood's appearance symbolized the opposition to President Obama.
"There is a President Obama only Republicans can see!" Stewart said, to loud applause.
There were two more segments in the show, then a pitch to Mandvi's segment online, then thanks for the audience, and a warm goodbye.
"Thank you…you sustained us through the week with your enthusiasm and warmth," Stewart said.
Then, he promised to come back to visit everyone's grandparents.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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