Daily Show satirizes state
Published: Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Updated: Tuesday, October 12, 2010 03:10
Correspondent Aasif Mandvi of "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" traveled the length of Delaware earlier this month, stopping on campus and Main Street, to explore how the Senate race in Delaware between Christine O'Donnell and Chris Coons highlights the differences between northern and southern Delaware.
Mandvi's report aired Wednesday in a segment called "Divided Delaware" as part of the show's continuing coverage of the midterm elections, which host Jon Stewart refers to as "Indecision 2010."
While on campus, Mandvi interviewed political science professor Jason Mycoff about the upstate/downstate divide.
Mycoff said "Daily Show" researchers asked him a number of questions in preparation for the segment, including inquiries about the state's geography and size, population distribution, voter turnouts and which parts of the state Christine O'Donnell and Mike Castle received their support from.
"It was a lot of fun and certainly a lot different that anything that I would normally do here at the university," Mycoff said.
In his explanation of the state's political culture during the interview, he said residents of southern Delaware are historically more conservative and more religious than people upstate, to which Mandvi responded with surprise about the existence of a "south" in Delaware.
"Is it really called south or is just called like, ‘Over there?'" Mandvi asked the professor in the interview.
To verify Mycoff's comments, Mandvi explored Delaware to find out if "the north [was] filled with money liberal elitists and the south with God-fearing patriots," poking fun at the state's small size along the way.
He spoke to Newark and "Dixie" residents to gauge how different upstate and downstate are, discovering that "while the south has only two museums and a satellite campus of the University of Delaware, the north boasts three museums and the main campus of the University of Delaware. It's as if they're two completely different states."
Mycoff said the segment was amusing and would help propel the state of Delaware further into the national spotlight.
"It's sort of a rare occasion when Delaware is a prominent fixture in national politics," Mycoff said. "And the Senate race this year, because it's Vice President [Joe] Biden's former seat and with Christine O'Donnell, there's been a lot of attention to it."
Mycoff said "The Daily Show" appeals to college-age viewers because it raises political issues in a humorous way. Delaware's guest appearance on the show will also help increase students' interest in the campaign, he said.
"The show is a lot funnier if you know what's going on and if you know the people and the situation," he said. "So I think if students are watching that, it means they're probably paying more attention to the political system as a whole. They're more familiar with the names, they're more familiar with the issues, which is a good thing for democracy—if you can improve participation in any way, then it's going to be a good thing."
Senior Paul Ruiz, former president of the College Democrats, was getting a haircut at Cat's Eye on Main Street when he noticed cameramen from "The Daily Show" interviewing passers-by outside.
"Everyone inside got excited about it," Ruiz said. "They were watching them through the windows."
He said the spotlight on Delaware gives the university community the opportunity to expand its political education. Holding the House of Representative and Senate debates on campus has also contributed significantly to students' interest in the upcoming elections, he said.
"We've made a lot of progress since I came here in 2007," Ruiz said. "[Former university president David Roselle] was hesitant to have polarized events on campus, but we need to have both sides equally represented."
He said he thought the "Divided Delaware" segment was humorous and entertaining.
"It was funny that that little idiosyncrasy about the state of Delaware was satirized on such a big show," Ruiz said.