Ever since she joined The Daily Show as a correspondent in 2015, at the same time that Trevor Noah was enlisted to replace Jon Stewart as host, Desi Lydic has slowly (but surely) been making a name for herself. Like her fellow correspondents, the improv comedian has transformed her acting chops into a veritable smorgasbord of comedic goodies — from her faux training session with the professional translators who interpret Donald Trump for global audiences, to a deep dive into the “raw water” craze.
On Monday, Lydic will venture outside the typically five to seven-minute-long bounds of her Daily Show field pieces for a new hour special about gender equality titled Desi Lydic: Abroad. Along with head writer Lauren Sarver Means and a largely all-female team of producers that includes Khoby Rowe, Jen Flanz and Jill Katz, Abroad tackles the World Economic Forum’s decision to rank the United States 49th in its 2017 Global Gender Gap Report. Ahead of the special’s premiere, Uproxx spoke with Lydic about how Abroad came to be, as well as The Daily Show‘s own experiences with gender (in)equality.
When did you, Lauren Sarver Means, and the team first start grappling with this idea?
We started talking about it in December. Not this past December, but the December before. So, it was quite a while ago. I found out that the World Economic Forum had ranked America 49th in the world when it comes to gender equality in the global gender gap report they do every year. I just was… When you’re a woman in this country, and especially with the current administration and working in politics, you certainly feel it. You certainly feel like, “Okay, things could definitely be better for women right now.” 49th in the world! When we’re talking about America, the country that’s supposed to be the greatest country in the world. That was really shocking to me and it still is. When women often speak out about this — we make our voices heard, demand more and we say we want equality in this country — there’s a bit of a pushback that tends to happen.
People get resistant and say, “What are you talking about? Women have all the rights that they could possibly want. Look at some of the other countries in the world. If you want to know what it’s like for women to be hated, why don’t you go visit this country or that country?” No, we want America. So, we started from that place and went from there. The thing that I love about being on The Daily Show is, we get to talk about these things that interest us. We get to shine a spotlight on issues that matter to us by going out into the world and making pieces about them. This obviously seemed a bit too large to cover in a five-minute field piece on the show, though, but luckily, Comedy Central was happy to do a bigger special. “Great. Can we do it in a special? Can we do it in 41 minutes?” I was like, “Of course.”
Comedy programs like The Daily Show are often put at the forefront of progressivism in entertainment. At the same time, there are Paley Center clips of panel discussions with The Daily Show writers from 10 years ago in which almost everyone onstage is white and male. So it was nice to see that, including yourself and Lauren, Abroad is being led by the likes of Khoby Rowe, Jen Flanz and Jill Katz.
Yeah, absolutely. The great thing is that there is a new conversation happening now. The tides are turning now. I know this just from my experience in the four years that I’ve been at The Daily Show. It has always been a pretty progressive place, but in recent years there’s definitely been a real request to have a lot of diversity in the room. I mean, Jen Flanz is our showrunner. She’s been an executive producer for quite a while now. She’s spoken a lot about how things have changed over the years at The Daily Show.
Plus, Trevor [Noah] feels very strongly about having a variety of voices in the room. In particular, on the creative team. The more diversity you have in the room, the more of an opportunity you have to reach a greater pool of people. We see it happen all the time. Sometimes a subject will be brought up and the men in the room might think one thing, but it takes a woman in the room to speak out and say, “Actually, from my perspective, this is the take we should look at.” That never would have happened if that woman wasn’t in the room. We never would have reached the women in the audience as a result. It’s important to all of us to have a wide variety of diversity in the room.