The Daily Show creators recount stealing Stephen Colbert from Good Morning America

Stephen Colbert
(Image credit: Frank Micelotta/Getty Images)

On its 25th anniversary, The Daily Show's creators are looking back on how Stephen Colbert made the jump from real news to fake news.

The iconic Comedy Central series celebrates its 25th anniversary Thursday, and creators Madeleine Smithberg and Lizz Winstead delved into its origins in an interview with The New York Times. Among the details they discussed was hiring Colbert as a correspondent based on seeing his subtly funny work on Good Morning America.

"I saw Colbert doing pieces on Good Morning America as a correspondent, and I was like, 'He is saying some things that nobody is catching that are really funny, and it feels like he is playing a correspondent," Winstead said. "He should be on The Daily Show. I went to Madeleine and I said, 'I don't know that GMA understands how funny he is, and we should steal him."

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Colbert's GMA stint was brief, but a segment from 1997 featuring him reporting on a Rube Goldberg machine competition is available on YouTube. According to The Hollywood Reporter, this was the only one of Colbert's segments to ever make it to air. He would go on to be such a hit on The Daily Show that he'd get his own spinoff, The Colbert Report, which eventually led him to his current gig on The Late Show. Of course, Colbert was far from the only comedian to become a major star thanks to The Daily Show.

"After four or five months, I called back Mike August at William Morris, and I go, 'Do you have another one like Stephen Colbert?'" Smithberg recalled to the Times. "And he goes, 'As a matter of fact, I do: It's his best friend and writing partner Steve Carell.' So I go, 'OK, when can he start?'" And the rest, as they say, is history.

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Brendan Morrow

Brendan is a staff writer at The Week. A graduate of Hofstra University with a degree in journalism, he also writes about horror films for Bloody Disgusting and has previously contributed to The Cheat Sheet, Heavy, WhatCulture, and more. He lives in New York City surrounded by Star Wars posters.