Why I did the Daily Show

This was in the works for a while, but judging by some of the feedback we received, some of you already figured out that I was on The Daily Show last night. (Video at the end of the article.) Just to get the immediate reactions out of the way… yes. I knew it wasn’t an invitation to a really great party. I know what they do to anyone not perceived as a politically correct liberal. I went into this with my eyes open. I cleared it with our boss first, as we do with all media appearances, and he said to just go for it. I feel obligated to note that I also consulted with Ed first and he took the route of caution and told me it would probably all end in tears.

The whole thing started in October after I wrote a column about energy services company Baker Hughes and the fact that they engaged in a charitable effort with Komen for the Cure. In addition to giving Komen $100K, they painted some drill bits pink as a visual clue, similar to how the NFL makes all the players wear pink gear to “raise awareness” about breast cancer. Some of the feminists freaked out over this donation because Baker Hughes sells equipment and services used in fracking. That apparently makes them evil by definition and the feminists would have none of it.

Long story short, I wrote a column poking fun at the critics, published it here and got on with my life. I really didn’t think much more about it.

Fast forward to November. The Daily Show decided they were going to do a piece on the pink drill bits and one of their producers contacted us asking if I would be willing to tape a segment for the show. After some consideration, I decided to do it, for reasons I’ll finish explaining below.

Just to let you know how it all went down, the experience of filming the segment was a positive one… at least for me. TDS flew me to Manhattan, put me up in a very nice, four star hotel and provided limo service. I went to the studio where the session was to be recorded and, knowing that I was in enemy territory, I had done my research and was determined to answer each and every question in a way that would make it hard for them to chop it up and make me look any more stupid than I already am.

At the studio I met up with the correspondent they assigned the story to, Samantha Bee. I found her to be smart, friendly, engaging, and a lot of fun to hang out with. She’s every bit as funny as some of her comedy work. (Yes, I find her funny.) We sat down in opposing chairs and I got mentally prepared for the interview. It felt like sitting down to a chess match.

I sat there across from Samantha Bee (with the producer who was developing the piece just off to the side) for two hours and fifteen minutes. Add to that the time doing B roll shots strolling up and down the hall, as well as out on the street in New York, and it was more than two and a half hours. (If you ever want to attract a crowd in New York City, hit the sidewalk with a film crew. People appear out of nowhere. A young woman came up and asked for my autograph, obviously having NO IDEA who I was. I signed my name and put “Hurricane Carter” in parentheses.)

They had a long script of questions, and a number of them were asked multiple times to see what variety of answers I might give. I was consciously working during every exchange to not give them any short, clipped, yes or no answers that they could weave into the segment out of context. I anticipated some of the obvious ones they might ask. One great example showed up when they asked me about details of the drill bits, how deep in the ground they went and how long they stayed down there. The obvious implication was that it was dumb to “raise awareness” by painting the bits pink because so few people would ever see them. When she asked me how many people actually saw the drill bits I smiled and said, “well, between CNN, MSNBC and now the Daily Show… tens of millions? So I guess it worked out okay after all.”

Sam Bee smiled at me and said, “Well played, sir.” (Of course they didn’t use that.)

When pressed about why it wasn’t bad for Komen to accept money from a company that contributes to fracking and thereby “causes cancer” I told her that money is fungible. She asked over and over if there was no source where charities shouldn’t take money from people, even for a good cause. I slipped up at that point and gave a stumbling answer about not taking money from kidnappers and instantly knew from their reactions that I’d given them something they might be able to use. But I let out an F bomb at that point which led to an amusing exchange with Sam Bee where I apologized for cursing, but I still wondered if they’d gotten me. (That wasn’t used either, thankfully.)

It went back and forth like that for a long time. I tried my best to hold my own, and we even talked about the fact that I knew they were going to try to edit me in a bad light. But throughout all of the interview session and those discussions, we had fun. She was really enjoyable to talk to and we both knew what our roles were in that little play. It took the pressure off and everyone laughed a lot. We actually talked about fishing quite a bit, and I enjoyed meeting her. All in all, it was just fun from beginning to end, regardless of how the segment came out.

The final product, as you’ll see below, turned out to be virtually nothing in terms of my participation. They took one of the street shot B roll clips to introduce me as a “gas industry expert.” Why that happened I have no idea, as I explained clearly on tape that I was the weekend editor for Hot Air, had never worked for Baker Hughes, and simply wrote about energy issues as an area of personal interest. Also, that intro shot of me out on the street was horrible looking, but at the time they filmed it I was given the impression that they were just adjusting the lighting and getting Sam and I in frame. Yes.. it’s a horrible picture. As to the interview itself, they used perhaps twenty seconds of me saying that a charity should be able to accept money for a good cause, but it almost seemed out of context.

So did they “get me” as so many conservatives complain? Not as I saw it. In fact, they “got” so little that I was barely in the piece. Considering the way they have portrayed some conservatives and energy industry supporters in the past, I can’t complain at all. They wanted someone who would say something they could use to make energy industry activists look stupid, evil or both. If I’d delivered on that, I’m guessing that I would have been in a lot more of the piece. As it was, at least by my interpretation of it, I fought them to a standstill and when they got in the editing room there just wasn’t much they could use. So, if nothing else, I’d like to think I proved that “the enemy” can go on the Daily Show and not always be portrayed in a horrible light.

So now I return to the original question. Why did I do it? I know Jon Stewart is in the running for the most liberal person on television and he is widely despised in conservative circles. But I’ve been watching the Daily Show since it was first on the air. I’ve always been able to separate the politics from the comedy in entertainment and have always loved the show. How could I turn down the chance? Still, it was a risk which I debated for a while and talked to several people about. In the end, it was my wife who asked me the final question. “If you don’t do this are you going to regret it for the rest of your life?”

I called them back the same day and booked the show.

So yes, I saw how it came out. If this was a chess match where The Daily Show wanted to make me look bad, I think I came away with the win, particularly since I had absolutely no control over the editing. And I don’t regret doing it. I do wish they had either mentioned Hot Air or used the footage they shot of me introducing myself and talking about the site. (One of the reasons I agreed to do it was also to hopefully promote Hot Air to an audience we might not generally reach.) At least I had the chance here at Hot Gas to explain how it happened and why I did it.

Here’s the video of the segment.

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