‘The Daily Show with Jon Stewart’ comes to Asheville

By Noor Al-Sibai – [email protected] – Staff Writer
News of the controversial North Carolina House of Representatives Bill 589 – better known as the voter ID bill, which shortened early voting by a week and will require official government identification at polls starting in 2016 – reached the attention of national media outlets. Most recently, it reached producers at “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.”
Alex Fisher, an Asheville native, UNC Asheville alumna and president of the Buncombe County Young Democrats, said a “Daily Show” producer contacted her a few weeks ago.
“At first I thought it was a total joke and I didn’t respond to it. Then the same woman called me directly and introduced herself as a producer and wanted to know if I could help muster up some democrats in Buncombe County for the show,” Fisher said.
According to Fisher, the rest is history.
Fisher organized a group of democrats, both young and otherwise, to meet with and be interviewed by “The Daily Show” correspondent Aasif Mandvi at Pack Square downtown.
“They wanted me to get a group of people together, not necessarily all Young Dems, but a good cross-section of democrats in Buncombe County, mostly highlighting the folks that are directly affected by the voter ID bill – students, women, single mothers, African-Americans, etc.,” Fisher said.
Among that group was Azaria Miller, a UNCA alumna and OurVoice employee, who said Fisher contacted her the day prior to “The Daily Show’s” visit.
“It was pretty nerve-wracking,” Miller said. “We waited at Biltmore Coffee (located in Pack Square) for what seemed like forever, but then we finally got the call and we looked down, and they were out there with the camera crew, and Aasif Mandvi and a producer. It was really cool.”
Fisher said the experience was surreal.
“It was very exciting,” Fisher said. “I still couldn’t believe that it was happening until we were actually standing face-to-face.”
According to both Miller and Fisher, Mandvi was characteristically funny when asking the arranged group and a few passers-by about the voter ID bill.
“Because it’s ‘The Daily Show,’ obviously they were extremely funny and basically making a punchline on what happened, so that was fun to watch,” Fisher said. “They interviewed a local republican named Don Yelton and got his opinion on the voter ID bill and had these follow-up answers with all these democrats, and they were having a good time.”
Mandvi asked leading questions about the demographics of interviewees and their political affiliation, Miller and Fisher said.
Miller, who is African-American, said Mandvi asked her what her race was and if she is a single mother.
“He was just trying to get people to say funny things. He told one guy, ‘Say you’re a registered democrat and that you’re gay,’ and the guy wasn’t gay, and he was like, ‘Well, I’m not,’” Miller said. “He asked this teacher to say that she was a registered democrat and that she sleeps with your students – and she actually said it! Then they told her she wasn’t supposed to say it and said they wouldn’t use that. She was like, ‘I just lost my job.’”
Despite the joking atmosphere, both Fisher and Miller said they were glad HB 589 is garnering coverage, even by a satirical outlet like “The Daily Show.”
“I’m against the voter ID bill,” Miller said. “I think it’s stupid – if you register to vote, you should be allowed to vote. There shouldn’t be another step to getting to the polls.”
Miller said republican gerrymandering has kept them in power, and the point of the voter ID bill is to keep people who would vote them out of power, away from the polls.
“Republicans are claiming that they’re not directly targeting democrat voters, but in all actuality, the folks that are affected by the bill are voting democrats,” Fisher said.
Fisher said she and other BCYD members were kept under lock and key regarding the air date until recently, when the producers confirmed it will air Oct. 23 on Comedy Central. The Young Democrats have a viewing party planned for the Oct. 24, the day after it airs, in the game room at the Merrimon Ave. Asheville Pizza and Brewing Company.