In an interview hosted by Stephen Colbert, Jon Stewart stated that he almost quit the show shortly after he began hosting it. Stewart wanted to change the direction of the show and was met with strong resistance from the writers and producers. According to Stewart, it took 2-1/2 years for those staff members to gradually leave the show so that Stewart could have his own fully supportive staff.
The show has won the Emmy for "Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Series" every year from 2003-12, the longest winning streak for a television show in Emmy history. The streak was broken by The Colbert Report (2005).
When the show was originally being developed, the producers offered Jon Stewart the job of hosting the show but he turned it down. When original host Craig Kilborn left in 1998, Stewart was approached again and he accepted.
Beginning in 2004, every couple of weeks or so, before a commercial break, Jon Stewart would introduce a "new, exciting, already canceled spin-off" of the Daily Show, followed by "clips" from "The Colbert Réport" with Stephen Colbert adding "It's French, bitch!". The brief segments consisted of Colbert ranting about news stories and yelling at politicians in fake interviews using archive footage. These segments became so popular that "The Colbert Report" did actually become a spin-off, The Colbert Report (2005), in 2005.
According to a 7 October 2003, "USA Today" article, the show is pulled together in this way: a researcher scans major newspapers, the Associated Press and cable news channels, then gives possible topics to the ten writers. These meet to discuss headline material for the lead news segment. By 11:15 a.m. they meet with Jon Stewart, and by 12:30 they have come up with jokes for the day's show. The cast hold a rehearsal, then the show is taped at 6:30 in front of an audience.
Comedy Central also produces a version of the show for viewers on CNN International called "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart: Global Edition". It is shown every weekend, and contains excerpts from the past week's episodes, giving more focus on global rather than US issues. The Global Edition runs in the format of headlines, report, celebrity interview. Jon tapes an exclusive introduction and outro for the Global Edition (sometimes in front of the audience, other times not), and the "moment of Zen" is called "the international moment of Zen".
In the first few weeks, there was no audience. In the following weeks, staff members were encouraged to watch the show just offstage and laugh at the jokes. For the second season, a studio audience was brought in and this format remained for the rest of the show's run.
Craig Kilborn was suspended for two weeks without pay in 1997 after he made disparaging remarks about head writer Lizz Winstead and other female show staffers in an interview for Esquire magazine. Winstead quit the show a month later.
Jon Stewart usually ends the show with a "Moment of Zen" clip from the media or popular culture. However, during the week after American historian Howard Zinn's January 2010 death, one episode instead ended with a "Moment of Zinn" - a brief clip of Zinn's 2005 appearance on the show.
Ed Helms left the show in 2006 to become a regular cast member on The Office (2005), along with "Daily Show" cast-mate Steve Carell. He returned to "The Daily Show" on December 12 to report on the confirmation of new Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and made an allusion to his stint on "The Office" by telling the audience he was working undercover in Scranton.
At the end of each show, a short clip from the broadcast, usually offbeat and slightly bizarre out of context, is replayed as a "Moment of Zen". The first "Moment of Zen" was file footage of a yak giving birth. In the past few years, "Moment of Zen" clips have been more focused on soundbites from politicians and media figures.
When the original host, Craig Kilborn, would conduct the celebrity interview segment of the show, it would conclude with the infamous 5 Questions, in which the guest would answer a series of five questions that were a combination of completely obscure facts and totally subjective opinions tailored to the guest. The format of the questions usually contained a geography question, a fill-in-the-blank style question where the guest was asked to fill in the blank with a word related to the guest, and a question in which the guest had to guess what Craig Kilborn was thinking at the moment.