TAMPA — Jon Stewart is a most accommodating host.
Before Wednesday’s taping of the Republican National Convention-themed “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” an audience member at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts asked him to say something nice about Tampa.
“On the air?” Stewart quickly responded with one of his mischievously perplexed looks. “The political convention is going on. Why can’t I lie, too?” he wondered.
But then he opened his Comedy Central show by welcoming viewers to “beeeyootiful Tampa,” quietly adding, “You wouldn’t believe how insecure they are.”
Home viewers may have had no idea what he was talking about but the crowd inside the Straz Center for the Performing Arts screamed its approval.
It was a raucous night for the second of four tapings of the hit series, devoted this week to the convention, or as the show calls it, “RNC 2012: The Road to Jeb Bush 2016.” In just 21 minutes of air time, Stewart and his staff poked fun at convention speakers, the party platform and network fascination with hurricane coverage.
Correspondent Aasif Mandvi, who is from Tampa, appeared on stage dressed in a raincoat with two shower heads pouring water on him, as if he were Anderson Cooper withstanding hurricane-force winds. But a green screen projection behind him made it look like he was on the convention floor getting pelted by “beer and spit,” as he described it.
The “Daily Show” often features “reporters” who appear to be in the midst of world news hot spots without leaving the studio.
But the program ventures out every four years to cover the political conventions. On Wednesday, correspondent Samantha Bee got a lot of laughs for a pre-taped segment in which she talked to delegates about Mitt Romney’s views on the party platform against all abortion. He favors exceptions in cases of rape, incest and to save a mother’s life.
It is one of those trademark “Daily Show” pieces that focuses on hypocrisy on both sides of the aisle. (The program will be in Charlotte, N.C., next week for the Democratic National Convention.)
One delegate after another talked to Bee about choice in “a free society” and asked “who are we to tell people who to believe.” But their views change when it comes to abortion, and few realized the irony involved.
The show, which featured a pointed interview with one-time Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain, began with Stewart focusing on the first day of convention activity, including speeches by Ann Romney.
He poked fun at the number of speakers talking about their own humble beginnings, before launching into a joking look at the night’s repeated chant of “We built it.”
“When was the last time we heard a catch phrase with a combination of braggadocio and whining petulance,” Stewart asked, quickly showing Charlie Sheen shouting “winning.”
He asked Cain about the lack of black support for Romney in polls.
“African-American support is zero percent,” Stewart told Cain. “You my friend are the margin of error.”
Executive Producer Rory Albanese said the show would “approach both conventions the same way. We don’t approach them with any agenda other than where we can find hypocrisy and humor.”
A crowd of more than 600 filled Ferguson Hall, and some of them had waited since 9 a.m. before being admitted around 4:30 p.m.
Tapings continue in Tampa through Friday. Former GOP Chairman Michael Steele is scheduled to be the guest for Thursday's broadcast.