What it's like writing for 'The Daily Show' in the age of Trump

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Comedians Kat Radley (left) and Matt Koff (right) are Daily Show writers by day, and standup comedians by night. They’re bringing their acts to Philly on Friday as part of the ‘Daily Show’ Writers Standup Tour.

You may not recognize comedians Kat Radley and Matt Koff by name or face, but if you’re a Comedy Central fan, you’ve likely heard their material nightly from the mouth of  Daily Show host Trevor Noah. Radley and Koff, along with coworkers Joseph Opio and David Angelo, are bringing their comedic stylings to Philadelphia as part of the Daily Show Writers Standup Tour on Friday.

Koff joined the Daily Show several years ago under the tenure of former host Jon Stewart and won an Emmy for his work in 2015, while Radley was hired last year following Noah’s start. They will be joined in Philadelphia by fellow staff writers Angelo, who was named New York’s Funniest Comic at the New York Comedy Festival last year, and Opio, who has written for more than 360 Daily Show episodes.

“There are so many people on the writing staff who do standup, and once you do standup, it’s in you and you can’t stop even if you have a writing job,” Radley says of the tour. “It’s nice to be able to get out on the road and have fans come out to shows because they like the Daily Show, and they get us instead.”

What is a typical day at the Daily Show like? 

Matt Koff: It’s a lot of reacting to the insane news cycle, which, as somebody who was here before Trump, things are way crazier than they were under Obama. I don’t just mean for the world, I mean for our staff.

Kat Radley: We evolve stories throughout the day, and occasionally at 4 o’clock something else will break, and we’ll have to throw out half of our headlines and write something new.

Do you tend to watch news different as Daily Show writers versus as standup comedians? 

KR: It’s nicer watching the news. I had this fear that I wasn’t ready for the show when Trump first got elected. It was an overwhelming state of panic every day. Now, it’s nice to be able to find a way to laugh at it, to look at it from a funny perspective as opposed to a way that might kill us.

MK: I don’t like watching the news. Mainly because Trump’s face is on it, and I don’t like his face or voice. That’s all I have to say. As a comedian, as a Daily Show writer, as a person, I don’t like watching Donald Trump. It was funny during the election. It’s not funny now.

Has working there made you more political?

MK: I can’t even remember senators’ names. Luckily, they have researchers who can tell us every senator’s name. I still don’t have to know any senators’ names. Basically, I can still be an idiot and write jokes for the Daily Show. This is starting to make me look really bad, but go on.

KR: You’re not using any of this, are you?

Do you tend to feel a lot of Jon Stewart’s influence on the show this far into Trevor’s run?

MK: Obviously when Trevor came on, there was a lot of pressure to climb out from under Jon Stewart’s shadow. Now, I feel like it’s two totally different things.

It’s also two different time periods. With Jon, toward the end of his run, Trump was running [for president] and it was a joke. Now, it’s like, ‘Oh, man.’ Trevor is dealing with how the joke is on America now. And he’s done a remarkable job at making this tragic thing funny, which is no easy task.

It did seem like it was a compare-and-contrast situation. It doesn’t seem that way now?

KR: As someone who was an audience member last year, and a writer now, I feel like there are no more articles or people tweeting about Jon. I feel like people are totally accepting Trevor now, and I think people are looking forward to what he thinks because he has such an interesting global perspective. People are eager for it because so many people in late night are American white dudes except Sam Bee and John Oliver.

So Trevor is who people want these days?

MK: I don’t really know what people want.

KR: Especially the women, know what I’m saying?

MK: I feel like if I knew what people wanted, I wouldn’t work at the Daily Show. I would have invented a miracle blender or something. I’d be a billionaire.

Have you guys performed in Philadelphia before?

MK: We did do a show at Underground Arts a few years ago, but that was under Jon Stewart’s reign of terror. I remember it being one of the more fun shows. Hopefully that bodes well this time around.

KR: I have not. Philadelphia is a pretty smart city. I imagine you have some good comedy crowds.

MK: And we’re not just pandering when we say that.

We do have a robust local scene. But it maybe isn’t as established as somewhere like New York or Boston.

MK: Hey, don’t sell yourself short.

Sorry. Well, we do also have a few big comedians from here like Kevin Hart and Big Jay Oakerson.

MK: Let’s not forget Bill Cosby.

What can people expect from the show?

MK: If you want to see a really good comedy show, but you’re sick of recognizing the person on stage from television, then you should come see this show. If you’re not curious, you should also come see this show.

KR: Joe [Opio, who is Ugandan] opens on this show, right Matt? If anything, come for that.

MK: Yes. I hear in Philadelphia, there is a high demand for Ugandan comedy.

KR: Take that, Boston.

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Daily Show Writers Standup Tour