When beloved Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died at age 87 in September, a sizeable chunk of the United States uttered an F-bomb upon hearing the news. The liberal firebrand shall remain irreplaceable, even though the Senate inserted a Trump nominee into her spot on the court this week. Quite simply, RBG was a legend, and even in the face of an increasingly conservative court, her searing dissents will stand for all of posterity. Her decades of work — on issues including gender and abortion rights, same-sex marriage, Second Amendment, healthcare, and immigration — will never be forgotten. As the chaos of 2020 continues to swirl, Comedy Central decided to give RBG a proper sendoff on Friday, October 30 at 11:00pm EST with a special that’s entitled, The Daily Show with Trevor Noah Presents: Remembering RBG – A Nation Ugly Cries with Desi Lydic.
Desi, of course, has been a The Daily Show staple since Trevor Noah began his post-Jon Stewart tenure in 2015. This shall be her second special for the news satire program (the first one being 2019’s “Abroad”), and as with everything in 2020, things are very different. Desi’s been bringing us the quarantine humor for most of the year, and she was gracious enough to hop into a Zoom call with us to discuss RBG’s legacy and how the special will unfold with both serious and humor-filled notes aplenty.
I was just watching the Elizabeth Warren clip from this special. Since you were scrambling to put on makeup, I figured I’d put some on for you.
Let me tell you, I went to the effort to put on a blazer but did not blow dry my hair today, so it’s all a balance.
It’s very beachy, so I’m digging it.
Oh thank you, it’s so lazy.
You’re working at home these days, of course. What’s the biggest adjustment that you’ve had to deal with?
You know, I have so much respect for our crew, for our camera operators and our directors, and audio. I always thought I had respect for people doing our jobs at our show, but this has really blown my mind, how difficult every step of the process is. For the special, we shot everything at home. We did not go out. We had an incredible director, Stacey Angeles, who works at the show as well, but my husband was camera-operating everything, so we were, like, rigging the iPhone to my son’s scooter and pulling back for dolly shots.
I bet that changes the whole at-home dynamic.
It’s a full-on family affair at this point.
With this year being such a total nightmare, how do you wrap your mind around such serious subjects and stay, you know, funny?
That’s a real question, Desi!
It’s still to be determined! TBD from the audience after they see this special. For me, working through this period of time in history with like-minded people at the show, who all happen to be very funny people, is very cathartic. It’s the only way that I know how to deal with pain and any sort of difficulty. I also think comedy can be a great unifier. I come from a family that has different political beliefs… and we can laugh together. It’s the one thing that can be a conversation starter, and we hope that by laughing through these times, there’s some sort of cathartic conversation that comes out of it.
Speaking of cathartic, this special’s cold open included your “reaction” to RBG’s death, and it was the same reaction I had.
It’s exactly what a lot of people I know did, too.
Well, I mean, it’s not good, but we’re in this together.
Then the Senate went ahead and “replaced” RGG this week. Did that alter your plans for this special?
I think we were pretty realistic about what the outcome was going to be. We thought that we might have to reshoot a few things, but we sort-of prepared for the outcome that ultimately came to fruition. That’s part of why we wanted to make this — after the news of learning about Justice Ginsburg’s death, there was just this collective feeling, and particularly from women, who I spoke to, it was just this, “Oh [throws hands up].” That word that I probably shouldn’t say, which we bleep out on Comedy Central. I felt like the GOP was pushing this through so quickly with this confirmation that there wasn’t really a chance to take a minute and take a step back and appreciate her legacy and talk about some of her greatest achievements and process the grief and the emotional roller coaster that many of us are on right now and figure out the “what is next?”
What kind of tone does the special strike while paying tribute?
We go on a journey of processing the five stages of grief and everything that is ridiculous and funny about that. And then I sit down with some legal experts, and we sit down with Elizabeth Warren to discuss the possibility of court expansion, how that can potentially be an option, and what’s difficult about getting something like that through? What the Democratic Party might be able to do, going forward, about RBG’s legacy, and not just to protect it but build onto that and what’s next. We were fortunate to speak with a lot of incredible women who can lay the groundwork on where to go next. In addition to getting some really nice interviews from people who knew Justice Ginsburg personally with anecdotes and stories that I hadn’t really heard before. Nina Totenburg told a story about a theater outing with Justice Ginsburg that was very funny.
The word “legacy” is overarching, and it includes her dynamics within the court. I can’t help but think of how RBG was such a liberal firebrand, but she didn’t let that stand in the way of being great friends with arch-conservative Justice Scalia. But then they could argue at work! What’s your fondest memory of her?
You know, so much. I think so much of her work, early on, before she was on the Supreme Court, was dedicated to fighting legal discrimination all over the country and pregnancy discrimination. The Daily Show hired me when I was six months pregnant so that one really hit me, I can’t help it. That is baked into the sensibility of The Daily Show without even blinking.
That’s seriously incredible. You gotta conclude that RBG paved the way.
Her work, so many years ago, with changing people’s perspectives about how women can have careers. It doesn’t have to be the man as the breadwinner and the woman as the homemaker. She really challenged those gender roles and those stereotypes that had a huge impact on so many of our lives. In the middle of shooting this special, for the last three weeks, my work, this job, has taken over our entire apartment and my entire family and my husband, without blinking an eye is keeping my dinner warm and fully raising our son for three weeks without my help at all. So, I just think about all that work she did early on to shift the American perspective for that to be something that, now, you might not think about twice.
Her work ethic was unparalleled, and Trevor Noah singled that out on-air. She even scheduled her chemo to miss as little time as possible.
Yeah, we discuss how much she was able to accomplish in her years. That’s one of the most incredible things that I remember processing after I watched in this really great RBG documentary. They spent a lot of time talking about that, including her struggles early on with taking care of her husband and raising her child.
Her husband suffered from cancer while she was in school. Damn.
And she helped him with his schoolwork while she was getting a law degree at the top of her class. It’s really incredible, I can’t even imagine how hard that was for her.
Imani Gandy, who has always gone by the @AngryBlackLady handle on Twitter, is one of your legal experts. I love her. What does she bring to the table?
Imani, yeah! She’s great. I wish Imani’s interview could have been so much longer than we had time for in the show. She spoke on so many issues. We talked about what’s at stake, like reproductive rights, voting rights, LGBTQ rights, climate change, and all of these things that are on the line right now. And Imani’s fantastic because she’s so dynamic, and as a legal expert and a woman with a really dynamic personality, she really makes it very understandable for myself and her audience.
Everyone, of course, thought of Roe v. Wade being in jeopardy when RBG died. What did your experts think of the likelihood of that decision being dismantled?
We do get into that a little bit, yes. There’s some concern, and a lot of concern on a state-by-state basis. It really only affects the states between New York and California, so just a few!
I immediately thought of Texas, which will do anything to shut down pro-choicers.
Yes, Imani speaks to that a lot about being concerned for what could come next there.
You also dive into the same-sex marriage issue and possible court fallout.
We do. We talk about that potentially being on the line, and we also spoke to a very lovely couple that RBG married. She officiated their wedding, so also hearing their story of their interaction with her and what she meant to their lives was really nice. Seeing that up against, “Oh, this is on the line now?” That really hits home, the reality of what we could be dealing with.
Before we go, I’m curious about what your experts thought about court expansion. Do they think that’s a reasonable possibility?
That depends on who you ask. We talked to Kate Kendall, who is part of Take Back The Court, and Imani Gandy had her take as well. They both are somewhat optimistic that it could potentially be a possibility and that it’s a real solution to a lot of the problems. We talk about whether it’s stooping to their level, and if it’s a reasonable thing to ask for. And we come to the resolution that it is a reasonable thing to ask for, according to Kate and Imani, and it would be difficult to pull off. And we don’t know if it’s going to be a possibility, and if it is, there might be a long wait for something like that to happen. It’s challenging, and Imani talks about how the Democratic Party is going to have to, as she would put it, “Blow sh*t up.”
That sounds about right from Imani.
Her words, not mine! But yes, “Blow sh*t up” and get in the fight.
‘The Daily Show with Trevor Noah Presents: Remembering RBG – A Nation Ugly Cries with Desi Lydic’ premieres on Friday, October 30th at 11pm EST.