Writers’ Room Eats: The Daily ShowImage courtesy of Comedy Central Food Features The Daily Show
The Daily Show With Trevor Noah writers’ room operates on a whole other plane of existence. Rather than write, say, 10 or 20 episodes of a sitcom over the course of several months with lots of rewrites, they put together a hyper current comedy-news show four days a week. This is impressive enough, but throw in the trash fire we call the news today and it feels otherworldly. Paste talked to two writers, Dan McCoy and Devin Delliquanti, about their writing process and what food powers them through the ever-churning news cycle.
Paste: What’s lunch like at The Daily Show?
Dan McCoy: We have a catered lunch which I believe originally was supposed to be for the crew members, but it sort of evolved over time to be for everyone. Then we eat upstairs at our desk. It’s a very solitary process.
Devin Delliquanti: Usually it’s a deft eating process since it’s more for convenience. [Lunchtime] is when a lot of the scripts are in transition and we’re adding new jokes and putting things in files. And we’re getting ready for rehearsal before we pivot in the afternoon to thinking about the next day’s show as well. There’s not a lot of time, so you go down and get as much as you can and eat at your desk while you’re either catching up on the news or putting jokes into a file.
DM: I do think it’s the high point of the day, at least for me. We have menus posted and I’m always reading it carefully in anticipation because I know there’s one thing right in the middle of the day that I can look forward to. And if we’re in the middle of something else important when lunch is going on I get very antsy.
Paste: What’s your catering like?
DM: Oftentimes it’s just salad and a couple of steamer trays. Three main options, one is probably vegetarian. On Mondays they throw themes at us like tacos or breakfast for lunch.
DD: There’s grilled chicken breasts, but ethnically seasoned differently from day to day.
One of the things that I’ve found helpful during lunch is we have those plastic salad bowls right at the beginning of the line, and the salad ingredients are first. So if you choose not to do a salad, you have to walk by it. And if you take one of the plastic bowls, you kind of have to fill it with salad. If you have a hot dog with sloppy joe on it in one of those salad bowls, you’ve gone awry somewhere.
Paste: How about snacks?
DM: I try to avoid it but it’s very hard, there’s boobietraps. My friend who used to be head writer left the show and immediately lost like 20 pounds.
DD: I was warned about The Daily Show before I started, so I’ve tried to be conscientious about it. I don’t know how successful I’ve been though.
Paste: If I were you I’d be stress eating.
DD: I think we stress eat for the state of the country at this point.
DM: I definitely put on like 7 pounds after the election.
DD: There’s also a snack table downstairs right before rehearsal, and I feel like we loiter there before we go into the studio. And there’s always that choice between celery sticks with hummus or a Ritz cracker with cheese and that’s the angel and devil on your shoulder every day.
DM: I feel like Trevor has really moved the show in a health food direction, though, in terms of what snacks he has lying around. There’s not candy everywhere like there used to be.
Paste: Do you ever order out?
DM: On Fridays we don’t have a show and the crew’s out, so those days we do order out from various places. We don’t order as a group usually, we order individual food.
DD: We are not a lunch monolith on Fridays.
I feel like with a daily show, the food process becomes honed in the same way as any other part of making the show. There’s a rhythm to the week, and on Fridays there’s a different kind of food like barbecue or Greek. And you’re kind of conditioned to know that at the end of the week there’s a reward for having made it through four hopefully good shows.
DM: Sometimes we’ll get stuff like free ice cream from Ben & Jerry’s because they like the show, and that’s always nice.
Paste: What about special occasions?
DD: Every so often there will be a PA going through the office telling everyone that the March birthdays are being celebrated in the conference room and there is cake.
I think that’s one of the things that Trevor has mentioned. He’s amazed about cake in everyday life, and that’s not something that he’s experienced in Africa. He was taken aback by the sheer volume of cake, but he’s adjusted.
DM: We just had a big office dinner together. Whenever a writer leaves the show we do a big roast of that writer and we have a fancy meal at a steakhouse.
Paste: You guys have roasts?!
DM: Anyone who wants can roast the writer who is leaving. And of course he or she gets up and gives it back to everyone.
DD: It’s a great tradition. That was my second roast last night, and it’s unlike anything you get from any other job. It’s such a long tradition and is really fun. It’s one of the institutional memories of the show—that we keep moving forward.
The Daily Show With Trevor Noah airs weeknights on Comedy Central at 11/10PM Central.
Laurel Randolph is a food and lifestyle writer hailing from Tennessee and living in Los Angeles. She enjoys cooking, baking and candlestick making. Tweet at her face: @laurelrandy