Never be afraid to get dirty, but be sufficiently sure-footed to avoid the abyss of contamination.

The Black T-Shirt/White T-Shirt Concept

Back in high school, I started to tape my favorite pieces from Comedy Central, Saturday Night Live, and MadTV. The goal was to create an archive that would hold up for years to come. The result was fairly successful, and I sometimes played it for friends when they visited.

I decided to start the archive after remembering one of Steve Carell’s first reports for The Daily Show but being unable to recollect all of it. It featured Carell interviewing some self-proclaimed expert, who claimed to have a superior understanding of human consciousness. Unfortunately, The Daily Show didn’t repeat airings of its reports very often, and I missed my opportunity to record it.

With the passing of time, I forgot most of the details of the report. The only thing I remembered was that the interviewee explained something to Carell that he called the black t-shirt/white t-shirt concept. Because of the high volume of content The Daily Show generates during the course of a year, I figured they would never ever release a DVD that contained this particular report. Efforts to find a reference to it online were in vain. It seemed unlikely that I would ever see this report again.

This changed when the show’s web site recently made its post-Craig Kilborn content publicly available. One of these was “Alien Nation”, the Steve Carell report I had sought.

As I browsed the site, I realized there were plenty of clips I had forgotten. It was on their program that I first heard about “Iron Chef”. As a chronic curry addict, their report about curry addiction was a wake-up call. When I was preparing to vote for the first time, The Daily Show provided me with information about presidential candidate Charles Doty. Last but not least, there’s nothing I can say about Stacey Grenrock-Woods’s encounter with Ostaro that Ostaro doesn’t already know.

In 1945, Vannevar Bush’s “As We May Think” introduced the memex, “a future device … in which an individual stores all his books, records, and communications, and which is mechanized so that it may be consulted with exceeding speed and flexibility. It is an enlarged intimate supplement to his memory.” To motivate the memex, Bush wrote:

A record if it is to be useful to science, must be continuously extended, it must be stored, and above all it must be consulted. … Thus far we seem to be worse off than before—for we can enormously extend the record; yet even in its present bulk we can hardly consult it.

I’m not sure if The Daily Show is useful to science, but I’m happy it’s been added to my memex.


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