Redditors -- really looking forward to our discussion. I’ve been a writer for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart since the first day the show started in 1996. Before that I wrote monologue jokes for Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher and also did stand-up on Late Night with Conan O'Brien and The Late Show with David Letterman. I still perform stand-up regularly, mainly around New York City, and I host the Writers' Bloc Podcast where I interview other comedy writers focusing on the writing process with a few salacious personal anecdotes thrown in for good measure. Ask me anything.

PROOF here

UPDATE: I answered a BUNCH more q's on Monday so check them out. Now it's Tuesday and I'm going to answer even more... because I care! even though a shocking number of you are by all accounts little more than petulant children. suffice to say that my extra effort is for the grown ups among you. thank you for taking part.

UPDATE: A lot of people asked about the writing process behind The Daily Show and how I got started in comedy - you can watch my response here

For those of you interested in a VERY detailed account of my comedic "origins story" I discussed it on the podcast "Ghandi, Is That You" -

And for those of you interested in a VERY detailed account of our daily grind at The Daily Show, I discussed that on my own podcast, Writers' Bloc, with my friend and co-worker Elliott Kalan -

UPDATE: Also got a lot of questions about how we choose the stories to cover on The Daily Show - here's my response

UPDATE: Thanks for the questions over the past few hours - had a great time going through all of them. I Couldn't answer ALL the questions today but will definitely continue answering them throughout the week. Also, I put a bunch of the video responses to some of these questions today on my #waywire profile which you can watch at this link, and feel free to follow me on Twitter and here.

UPDATE: I recorded a bunch of video responses to some of these questions that kept coming up. Here they are:

How'd you get the job working at TDS?

How do you guys choose what stories to do at TDS?

Who was the funniest correspondent in real life?

How do you guys find so many relevant clips for the Daily Show?

How do you cut ideas on TDS? Who makes the decision that a joke sucks?

Writers' Bloc Podcast

Answering a bunch of random questions

Comments: 903 • Responses: 50  • Date: 

huxception661 karma

Did anyone else think he was a veteran, 16 year-old writer for the Daily show

jrhavlan19 karma

this seems to be a source of great disappointment to many people though i assume most of you are joking about it. anyway, sorry to be the guy who shattered your dream of a 16-year-old being a writer for the daily show. i'm not even sure that would be legal.

FishyFred259 karma

How long do you think Jon will do the show? Will there be another host after him?

Who(iasosopo) is behind the recent running gag revolving around uber-prankster Ronaiah Tuiasosopo? How will you decide when to stop using it?

jrhavlan298 karma

1 - forever and ever, amen! 2 - what did i just say. i said he's doing it forever. but probably ray lewis. 3 - it is, indeed, ronaiah tuiasosopo himself! 4 - when it gets old to us... which may be never.

lakattack022145 karma

Is this what Jon thinks too? That he'll continue to do this for a while?

jrhavlan132 karma

yes. i've found that in general my thoughts are constantly identical to jon stewart's even when we we are predicting the future in a comedic manner. of course, i could be wrong about that.

BowTieWearingElephan15 karma

HUGE Daily Show fan, just want to take this opportunity to ask: What's your favorite thing about the show? I.e., working with Jon, having the dogs around, being able to work around John Oliver and Sam B and the other correspondents?

jrhavlan11 karma

the answer is "all of the above". but mainly i enjoy the fact that i am able to do something with my ridiculous choice of career that i believe is at least a LITTLE bit relevant. that's also nice. and the catered lunch. also nice.

AlexS101179 karma

this AMA is useless, OP tries too hard.

TJ_McWeaksauce74 karma

I find this AMA to be unintentionally educational. It shows that even an accomplished, veteran comedic writer can still make amateur mistakes.

A few years ago, I took a class in improv comedy. In the very first exercise of the very first class, I made a stupid joke, and the teacher immediately called me out on it.

"One of the basic rules of improv comedy: don't go for the joke." He said. "The jokes will happen."

Apparently, one of the core ideas of improv is that the best comedy happens organically. You shouldn't force it. Funny people can take something as seemingly boring as talking to a friend in a park and figure out a way to turn it something genuinely entertaining.

So there I was - some doofus taking an intro class in comedy - making one of the biggest mistakes an amateur could make. And here we have a successful professional who has been writing for The Dailiy Show for 16 years making the very same mistake.

Not only is this strangely educational, but it's strangely reassuring as well.

TL; DR: Comedy is hard.

jrhavlan34 karma

thank you, "guy who took an improv class". your insight to comedy is a life lesson to me and i vow from here on out to never TRY to be funny again since it's obviously the wrong thing to do when you're writing for a comedy show that airs 4 nights a week. as for the rest of the haters (but mainly for the lovers), i think you'll find that given time beyond the original 2 hours i spent doing this i have since gone back to answer many if not ALL of the actual, meaningful questions that were asked. and for the record, the Writers' Bloc Podcast is a detailed, sincere (and believe it or not, organically funny) discussion of the comedy writing process. but why listen to me when you can just go on-line and shit on it without actually hearing it?

bulletbetsy154 karma

Do you ever answer questions honest and straightforward or do you always just make jokes?

jrhavlan212 karma

mainly i just make jokes, but i do recall once being asked "do you take this woman to be your lawfully wedded wife?" and i'm pretty sure i gave a straight answer to that but i'd have to go back and check the tapes.

Peipeipei117 karma

I don't really get the deal with people downvoting (currently at 8|8) a comedian who's voluntarily taking the time chat with anyone with an internet connection. Looks like some people mad that comedians like to make jokes.

potently-potable81 karma


jrhavlan23 karma

this person is absolutely right and i am now taking the time to go back through and answer more questions in a more serious way. though in fairness i AM a comedian and a comedy writer and i am not "the daily show". i just work there. so... you're still gonna get a mix, like it or not.

411eli124 karma

How did you get the job? I've always wanted to get a job writing jokes but don't know where to start.

What's the writing process like in the Daily Show's offices? Is it a collaboration? Is Jon involved in the process?

Thank you for this AMA.

jrhavlan75 karma

Thanks for the questions - here you go

AKPhilly1105 karma

Former Colbert intern here, from his 2008 PA primary coverage. Why don't Jon and Colbert check in with each other at the end of the show anymore? those bits were always hilarious.

jrhavlan169 karma

i think it's a timing issue -- early on it was a good way to transition between shows but now that stephen so easily holds his own we use that time differently. they were awfully fun to do though.

Pepe_sylvia61797 karma

How did Jon Stewart prepare for the Bill O'Reilly debates? Did you guys help him or did he prepare alone?

jrhavlan150 karma

have you seen the movie "rocky"? it was a lot like that. mainly eating half a dozen raw eggs for breakfast and then running through the streets at dawn wearing old, sweaty gray sweats. and yes, we helped him, but it was mainly jon.

Fernandifunk194 karma

You know when comedians try to be "on" all the time? That shit is fucking annoying. cough

Triette26 karma

I have a friend like that, have to ask him the question 4 times before he actually answers it without a joke.

blumangroup21 karma

How did Jon Stewart prepare for the Bill O'Reilly debates?

How did Jon Stewart prepare for the Bill O'Reilly debates?

How did Jon Stewart prepare for the Bill O'Reilly debates?

... I actually really wanted an answer to this one.

jrhavlan21 karma

maybe this will clear things up for people who seem to think that mother teresa's unfunny sister was supposed to be answering these questions. 1 - i get paid to be funny, so i usually stick with that. 2 - think about the question for a second and you can answer it yourself. the answer is that he prepared by doing what pretty much anybody would do: he put in many extra hours studying and researching the issues that were not only important to him but seemed to be hot button issues for o'reilly. and yes, we helped him when we could but, as usual, it was mainly jon's own knowledge and effort. 3 - happy now. 4 - i expect not.

BillTowne26 karma

Why does Stewart buy into the "nice guy" O'Reilly bit. The guy is an asshole who sexually harassed an female employee while masturbating himself with a vibrator. He is a bully and a sleazebag on his show. He is a kiss up/kick down guy and Stewart seems to buy into it. Why?

linkseyi23 karma

Well if Stewart just ridiculed him it wouldn't be a very effective argument.

jrhavlan3 karma

i agree with this. also, though o'reilly certainly seems to be in belligerent a-hole mode a disproportionate amount of the time, he can also occasionally be humorous and reasonable. i THINK maybe that's the side jon appreciates.

DerekReinbold90 karma

Who is your favorite guest to have on the show?

Are Jon and the correspondents as crazy behind the scenes as they appear on the show?

jrhavlan152 karma

1 - anybody who brings me something nice. or woody allen because he's woody allen. 2 - they are EXACTLY the same once you get past the fact that none of them ever wear pants.

sulama72 karma

The speed with which you come up with the retorts to the Fox News cycle is impressive. How many people are involved with assembling those epic Jon Stewart smack downs? How much time does he have to prepare delivering it to us?

jrhavlan85 karma

first of all, thank you. yo are too kind and should probably back off a little bit on the kindness. secondly, the daily show has a large staff of very impressive, funny and dedicated people who help jon be "epic", but most of that epicness comes from jon himself. sorry. "mr. stewart." (almost lost my job there.) as for the time we have, please refer to the name of the show.

tobyhervey68 karma

More and more young people get their knowledge of the news and current events from comedians like you and Jon Stewart. How do you think this impacts (and will impact longer-term) culture around news and politics for future generations?

Is it a good thing to rely primarily on comedy for news about the world?

jrhavlan98 karma

1 - my dearest toby, i think that if people rely on TDS for their actual news the future will be here soon and will be similar to that will smith movie where he has a dog and fights his way through manhattan. 2 - no. but it's probably not terrible either. as long as you are aware of a few more details about the world.

IceCreamPlease45 karma

How in the world do you guys find so many relevant clips for the Daily Show? Some of them are from years ago! What's the process for that?

jrhavlan6 karma

great question -- here's my response

jared_00744 karma

Who, in your opinion, is/was the funniest "correspondent" in real life? Any interesting/funny/memorable stories about him/her?

jrhavlan16 karma

funniest correspondent / interesting stories.... here's my response

alxumdililah39 karma

Politically-- do Democrats or Republicans have more of a sense of humor and of the two which personalities have had the most extreme reactions to your humor? Have you found one person where you hit a nerve with that you can keep going for them?

jrhavlan88 karma

1 - hard to say but usually the one's we're not making fun of seem to have a better sense of humor than the ones we're making fun of. the only reaction we're looking for is laughter. 2 - we're not out to bury people. we just do what strikes us as worthy of our focus and wastes the least amount of potable water. very important.

babyminnow35 karma

If you had to pick your favourite comedian to work with, who would it be, and why?

Also, do you sometimes think, "I'm making money being funny, this is awesome?"

jrhavlan45 karma

1 - a guy i know named sam because he has a nice car and drives me everywhere. also, woody allen because he's woody allen. 2 - welcome to my world, buddy! first, middle and last thoughts of my day.

limbodog34 karma

You ever do stand up in Boston?

jrhavlan84 karma

i've never done stand up in boston but i will if you want me to... and if you own a comedy club... and if it comes with a meal.

andformynexttrick33 karma

anyone else think this guy isn't funny?

jrhavlan82 karma

which guy? hey, wait a minute!!

sharilynj24 karma

Would you rather fight 100 Jon Stewart-sized horses, or one horse-sized Jon Stewart?

jrhavlan85 karma

having done both i can assure you that a horse-sized jon stewart is not to be trifled with.

d-mmm-b21 karma

Do you use reddit often for research purposes?

jrhavlan73 karma

listen, d-mmm-b. i know a plant when i see one. you're not going to sucker me into your game. the fact that reddit is my sole source for research purposes is none of your business!

ediddy3317 karma

Do you write the questions for guests on the Daily Show?

jrhavlan4 karma

there are always a couple of writers assigned to spend at least a little time writing up a few questions but it's usually more of a guideline if anything. and more work is put into some guests (scholars and authors) than others (actors and such). jon is genuinely well-informed about all his guests which i believe makes him an amazing interviewer.

chilbrain17 karma

How many picks for the moment of zen do you get on an average day?

jrhavlan49 karma

as you might imagine we have an almost endless supply of "moments of zen" to choose from so we usually go with whatever we find most jarring though it is also sometimes influenced by whether or not it goes along with the content of that day's show.

Hepityson14 karma

Any advice for someone who wants to start doing stand up comedy?

jrhavlan57 karma

just start doing it. find open mics and places that have free shows that you can just go watch and then talk to the comics afterwards. immerse yourself in the world that you want to become a part of. learn from the comics that make you laugh as well as the ones you think are not funny. to quote a popular footwear manufacturer - just do it.

IceCreamPlease13 karma

For the interviews, how much of the book/ movie in question has Jon read? Is there someone whose job it is to read the book and give Jon some interesting questions to ask? And do they have a rehearsal interview before, or is it done cold?

Do writers get to meet the guests? If so, who has been your favorite to meet?

jrhavlan9 karma

jon is very prepared for ALL the interviews. we help a little, but i honestly don't know how he does it. interviews aren't rehearsed. we're discouraged from asking to meet the guests because it would just get out of hand, but i asked to meet joe montana (many years ago) and jerry rice (when he did dancing with the stars) because i grew up in the bay area in the 80's and was a HUGE fan. GO NINERS!!!

StupidCreativity13 karma

Were you the funny guy when u went to school. so it was like everyone told u "ur going to be a famious comedian" ?

jrhavlan69 karma

no. i was severely beaten as child while the authorities constantly looked the other way. thanks for bringing it up.

LittleCatDog11 karma

Can you describe the writing process for the show? Does John lead the charge or is it more fluid? When do you start planning the next show? What kind of deadlines do you deal with? (Sorry for the rapid fire questions)

WhatTheSheck11 karma

Hey JR! Big fan of The Daily Show and Writers' Bloc. I plan on applying for an internship at the Daily Show soon, and I was wondering if you had any tips or advice regarding what you guys look for in applicants. Thanks!

jrhavlan3 karma

don't be crazy. we tend not to hire crazy people in any capacity. also, don't eat a sandwich during the interview. that's never a good idea. outside of that, i don't know - assuming you're interested in a career in TV production/writing, make that clear and be sure it shows on your resume.

soma10710 karma

what were some of the jokes you wrote for The Simpsons? where do you get your inspiration?

jrhavlan64 karma

1 - i never wrote for the simpsons. stop getting your information from wikipedia. 2 - easy. every thursday, vilma from accounting comes in with my check. that usually does the trick. also woody allen because he's woody allen.

thomasdewberry8 karma

Whats the best stuff that never aired or an idea of yours that got scrapped that you would like to share?

jrhavlan4 karma

we only really cover 1 or 2 stories a day so ideas get cut ALL the time simply because there's no time for them. it's just a matter of making choices. most recently, i really wanted to cover the recent developments in redistricting and the awarding of electoral votes but other stories trumped it. but that doesn't mean we won't address this issue later. and by that time i will, of course, have become a noted expert on the subject.

bloodeagle928 karma

How often, if at all, do you write a script/skit/line and then test out with others to see if it is funny? Also, what was the most recent joke you wrote that went over everyone's head?

jrhavlan23 karma

we are all constantly working off each other at the show and we all enjoy doing that and respect each others opinions. there are few if any jokes that anyone on staff can tell that "go over everyone else's head" but we all tell plenty of jokes that are immediately recognized as "not suitable for air". that's just part of the creative process.

sharilynj8 karma

What are your feelings on the Emmy writing category being televised only every second year now? (Related: where do you keep your Emmys?)

jrhavlan12 karma

it's a bit of a drag because i really enjoyed the free trips to LA, but it is what it is and at this point i can't say i really mind that much myself though i'm sure it's far more disappointing for the newer writers who haven't had the opportunity to go out as often.
i keep my emmys in a man-sized emmy-shaped safe.

uhhh477 karma

what is the best little-known fact about Jon that you can tell us?

jrhavlan6 karma

he wears almost the exact same "outfit" to work everyday - khakis, a gray t-shirt over a white long sleeve waffle shirt, and extremely well-worn doc martin boots.

realkalm5 karma


jrhavlan3 karma

it's not like there's a set amount. in other words my answer isn't "296 pages". we all just consume what we're capable of consuming in a given amount of time... which is just one of the things working at the daily show has in common with competing in a hot dog eating contest.

SchrodingersCat243 karma

How do you cut ideas? Who makes the decision that a joke sucks? How much writing does Jon do?

jrhavlan8 karma

I get asked these questions a lot, here's my response

jrhavlan2 karma

recorded this response earlier which should help answer some of these questions

bluesjews3 karma

Any advice for young, aspiring comedy writers? Do standup? Improv? Write and shop specs? ??

jrhavlan7 karma

all of those are good things to do. and honestly, this is exacly what my podcast is about. listen to it and feel free to let me know if you agree.

benben11d123 karma

Does it bother you when people just assume that Jon writes all of his own jokes? Thanks for the AMA!

jrhavlan3 karma

no. but i also don't know how many people actually believe that. and i would assume that anybody who does believe that also probably wonders where the sun goes every night.

bluefactories3 karma

What does your desk look like?

How many cups of coffee on average do you go through, trying to finish your work for any given show?

How do you deal with writer's block?

Buffalo wings or pizza?

And, just as a favour to me, please tell me to stop lagging behind and buy Final Draft (scriptwriting programme) already. I know everyone uses it (particularly in writing for television - the field I'm hoping to move into) but ughhh spending money fucking sucks.

jrhavlan1 karma

1 - it has four legs and a top. why do you ask? 2 - i don't drink coffee. mainly because i'm too busy snorting aspirin. 3 - ummmm... let's see.... i, uhh.... hmmmm... 4 - buffalo wing pizza! come on, man! haen't you ever been to dominos!? 5 - i never told you that.

ediddy332 karma

Have you always wanted to be in political satire or did that just become the world you worked in?

jrhavlan13 karma

very good question. i'd say it was more the latter. i myself was never really particularly a "wonk" but that doesn't mean that i didn't know what was going on around me. my focus was simply comedy and being funny and the show gave me an opportunity to do that while also being relevant which has been a joy.

whatupteach0 karma

TIL, you can ask JR Havlan anything, he just may choose to ignore it.

jrhavlan15 karma

dear "whatupteach". this doesn't seem fair at all considering this is not actually a question. unless you meant to write "he just may choose to ignore it?" in which case the answer is "yes. that's a choice i could make." thanks for asking?