Delivering ‘Daily’ laughs

Thomas Bruch Journal Star
Eureka High School graduate Dan McCoy writes for “The Daily Show” on Comedy Central.

The path from Eureka High School to “The Daily Show” for an aspiring comedy writer follows a circuitous route, one that Dan McCoy found himself traveling for nearly a decade.

McCoy, an Eureka alumnus of the Class of 1996, toiled for years in sullen day jobs while performing improv, hosting a podcast and updating a Web series by night.

The experience tried his resolve.

“I don’t want to oversell this, but I was miserable at the job I was at before, where my office was in a supply closet under some stairs and I had to sit there making files all day,” McCoy said.

His part-time ventures forged some connections that led to applying for “The Daily Show” in 2011.

The writing clips on those resumés are analyzed without names attached to them, all the more surprising when McCoy was hired — he never had a television credit to his name at the time.

“For me to suddenly be working at ‘The Daily Show’ was like being picked out to go to Hogwarts or something,” McCoy, 37, said. “It was a huge magical change in my life.”

As part of the writing staff, McCoy met with former host Jon Stewart, producers and the rest of the writers each morning to review the video clips interspersed throughout that night’s show.

Smaller meetings and writing sessions followed with Stewart frequently involved.

If he liked a joke, Stewart would keep it. McCoy said that Stewart’s mind buzzed with possible punchlines, often coming up with some right before the cameras rolled after a day of writing and rehearsals.

Though the writers were diverse, none hailed from as small of a community as McCoy’s in Eureka. He didn’t catch much flak for it, but Stewart did poke fun at McCoy’s alma mater, Earlham College, a small liberal arts institution hugging the eastern border of Indiana. Upon seeing it on McCoy’s resumé, Stewart remarked, “Now I don’t think it’s good to just make up a school.”

McCoy realizes that the politics of the show largely don’t overlap with those of his hometown — “The Daily Show” often lampoons Republican political figures and conservative commentators. But he has taken some of the values from his younger years in Eureka and incorporates them into his writing.

“Even when I’m making fun of things, I hope there’s a certain underlying decency to what I write,” McCoy said.

Stewart hosted his last show Aug. 6 and the new host, South African comedian Trevor Noah, takes over Sept. 28. McCoy joined the staff when the show had been entrenched on the air for almost 12 years, and Stewart’s voice was a distinct one to write for, McCoy added. As the staff transitions to a new era, writing for “The Daily Show” as it finds a fresh voice has been seen as a worthwhile challenge.

“It will be interesting and, I hope, exciting to be with a show that’s figuring out what it wants to be, although there’s a lot of continuity left,” McCoy said.