Hallelujah, every episode of "The Daily Show" will soon be online! Indeed, a great many episodes are here already.
If you're at work today or are taking care of small children, please do not click on this link. It takes you to the amazing new site -- thedailyshow.com -- that Viacom has built for Jon Stewart and his pals, a place where you can find thousands of clips representing every instant of the show since 1999.
Think I'm kidding? Check this out: Jan. 19, 1999, a super-coiffed Stewart making fun of Bill Clinton. (Note: If the videos here don't show up for you, wait, or reload the page; the new "Daily Show" site seems to be getting crushed under first-day traffic.)
And oh, there's more. So, so much more.
As the L.A. Times reports, in order to make this happen, a team of 16 Comedy Central writers spent months tagging and encoding every episode of the show. Consequently you can search the site by date -- there's a handy timeline that allows you to go to any day in any year -- or by keyword.
And what keywords! In addition to the expected ones -- "moment of zen," or "indecision" or George W. Bush -- you can watch clips tagged "monkeys," "gypsies," "paranoia," Ralph Nader, or one of many more.
Some quibbles: Though it is fantastically designed, the site is not perfect. It seems to contain a great many episodes of the show, but many are obviously missing -- go back a few years in the timeline and you find some month with only two or three episodes included. These will surely be added in time.
Also, as far as I can tell, it's not possible to restrict searches for certain keywords to specific dates, which makes it difficult to find, for instance, the first time Stewart mentioned, say, Dennis Kucinich.
But let me be clear: This is all quibbling!
Regular readers of this space know that in the past I have not been very kind to Viacom, Comedy Central's corporate parent, for choosing to sue rather than working with Google's YouTube in putting its videos online. Case in point, Viacom's effort last month to pull down copies of Britney Spears MTV performance from YouTube -- the company, I argued, could have made money by allowing that much-wanted clip to flow freely online.
This move represents a very smart move for the company. I mean to say: Oh Viacom, shame on me for having spurned thee. Curse me for my having questioned your prowess for online video, and bless thee unto the heavens for giving us this rich bounty of fake news.
The clips on the new site do include very short ads that show up intermittently, but they're not at all annoying. Comparatively, on Comedy Central Motherlode, where the channel has long made available recent episodes of "The Daily Show" and its other programs, ads run 30-seconds long, they play often, and the same ones are repeated constantly -- extremely frustrating.
A Viacom exec tells the Times that ad designers are experimenting with even less intrusive formats for the new "Daily Show" site, including "ads that appear for two or three seconds at the start of a clip, recede, then emerge briefly from a corner of the picture like a network-TV promo while the video continues playing."
Whatever ad format it chooses, the company is sure to make a great deal from the new offering. "The Daily Show" is a program perfectly designed for the Web -- short, pithy clips that are easily passed about, and funnier and smarter than any blogger you know.
That the show's on television seems almost incidental now; the Web may come to represent its truest home.
And oh yeah, every clip is embeddable on other sites. So to celebrate, take a look at some bits I called up in the last few hours.
Oct. 18, 2000: The third presidential debate of 2000.
Oct. 16, 2007: Stephen Colbert on his presidential run.
June 8, 2003: Dennis Kucinich screams about WMD.
Sept. 19, 2001: Jon Stewart comes back after 9/11.