Here on the Chicago desk, we are watching “The Daily Show” during its run here for the way it uses — and possibly misuses — our teeming metropolis.
Let’s start tonight with the city flag being co-opted into the show’s logo. Which tattoo parlor did the “Daily Show” wind up at to get that done? They don’t realize that, as strong as that four-star image is, to those of use who see it every day and almost everywhere, it’s getting a little played out by now. But they’re out-of-towners so we’ll allow it.
Host Trevor Noah’s monologue Wednesday, in this third of four nights from the Athenaeum Theatre, had him acknowledging the sadness of Cubs fans, whose team was down 3 games to zero in the playoffs to the Dodgers at the time the show was recorded.
Which was hard for Noah, he said, because he’s been having a great time here. He walked along the lake. “I had a hot dog that had another meal on top of it,” he said.
But if folks are feeling like “Chicago teams can’t beat anyone,” he said, it is not true.
Cut to the sad story about this season’s sad Bulls team, the one in which forward Bobby Portis punched forward Niko Mirotic in the face during practice. “You should use this to your advantage,” Noah said, “because right now your team looks crazy. You stab someone on the first day of prison, that’s what that is.”
Given the roster the Bulls are putting onto an NBA floor, crazy might be the strongest weapon they have and the best that fans can hope for.
The opening taped bit put Noah outside President Barack Obama’s home in the Kenwood neighborhood, holding up a boombox in the style of Lloyd Dobler in “Say Anything.” The film wasn’t set here, and Obama really doesn’t live here anymore, but John Cusack, who played Dobler, is a Chicago actor. And in the ethos of the show and the great majority of its viewers, that sentiment of wistfulness for the 44th president grows more appropriate daily.
In segment two, new show correspondent Dulce Sloan spoke up for Chicago public school kids, maligned by some national media figures on the right.
She talked to poet and sociologist Eve Ewing and showed a clip of Chance the Rapper, both of them CPS products. But mostly she visited with the Young Chicago Authors and its director, Kevin Coval.
It was a pleasant enough feature on a worthy program, but the only humor Sloan and her producers could find in it was her stand-up’s aversion to open mic nights, which are a big part of the YCA performance poetry tradition.
The final, interview segment brought on TV writer and actor Lena Waithe, a Chicago native. Waithe corrected Noah when he tried to suggest that her upcoming series “The Chi” will be the first black drama on Showtime when it debuts in January.
Showtime had “Soul Food,” she pointed out. And knowing what has come before was of a piece with her saying that her recent groundbreaking Emmy win for comedy writing was the result of other women of color knocking on that door ahead of her.
“The Chi,” she said, will be about “what it means to be black and human and trying to survive on the South Side of Chicago.”
The interview had potential but it was, as these things tend to be, way too short. I’ll think of it as a teaser for hearing more from Waithe when the more in-depth interviews come out.
So Wednesday’s “Daily Show” Chicagoness? It had a funny hot dog line, which ain’t easy, and it made fun of the Bulls, which is way too easy but needs to be done anyway.
But mostly it was stuck in this mode of earnest concern for the city that seems to be defining the “Daily Show” visit. As I’ve said before, I appreciate Noah’s sincere desire to engage with social issues; it’s part of what sets him apart as a host. But when the show is at home in New York it is more effective at doing so through the prism of humor. Here’s hoping we’ll see a slightly different take on the show’s final night here.