NEW YORK (AP) — For "The Daily Show" correspondents, the national conventions are a veritable playground, teeming as much with targets for satire as they are with banner-waving delegates.
As it has in recent election years, the Comedy Central show is decamping for both the Republican and Democratic national conventions to broadcast a week of shows at each that will — in as close to real-time as "The Daily Show" gets — parody the nation's most extravagant political pageants.
"I cannot overstate just how many balloons are at these things," says a wide-eyed John Oliver, the British comedian who's been a "Daily Show" correspondent since 2006 and "covered" the 2008 conventions.
Whereas "The Daily Show" typically operates from its New York studio, sifting through TV footage for the gaffs, contradictions and inaccuracies of politicians and the media, the show is in the eye of the storm at the conventions.
"It's not easy when you're in the middle of it and there's nothing but goodwill swarming all around you and there's a moving sensation in the air, when you have to be the person going, 'This is slightly ridiculous,'" says Oliver. "People do tend to look at you and go, 'Really? You have to ruin this?' Not ruin it, provide another perspective on it."
"The Daily Show," which will shift its regular schedule a day to broadcast four shows from Tampa, Fla., on Tuesday through Friday, has been covering conventions on-site since 2000. The coverage is usually remarkable for the sense of correspondents running amok, like Stephen Colbert dancing and lip-syncing through the throngs on the floor of the 2004 DNC.
Oliver was so moved by Barack Obama's acceptance speech in 2008 that he crawled on his knees to drink in "the most delicious hope I've ever tasted." In a moment of exuberance, he attempted to kiss a woman. (She demurred.)
At the 2008 RNC, Samantha Bee filed a memorable report where she desperately tried to get attendees to use the word "choice," which many went to verbal acrobatics to avoid, lest Bristol Palin's pregnancy be linked to pro-abortion rights.
"It's always really interesting to me to make note of the things that people will and won't say at the convention," says Bee. "Everyone's receiving the same sort of messaging from day one. When a message reverberates through a whole stadium filled with people, it's amazing to witness."
Though the conventions represent the essential step of a party officially nominating a candidate for the presidency, they function mainly as carefully orchestrated frenzies to inspire voters. Political discourse can be in short supply.
"It's amazing how for campaigns that have so little substance, just how spectacularly they are able to present that nothing," says Oliver. "I think they're ludicrous but I think that's probably objectively true. I think if any American splashed water on their face or was unconscious for 40 years and came back, they'd go: 'What are we doing? And how much does this cost? How many balloons are up there?'"