The Daily Show

When vandals fractured the Boll Weevil Monument while trying to wrench off the bug in 1998, the oddball factor drew international media interest.

There are those who see the monument as freaky, funny, or just plain silly. And it is a bit funny, which is why it’s also kind of fun and unique. It’s really attractive too; it’s simply nice to look at when you’re driving through town. Media around the world needing a fringe story pounced on the tale of a town seeking its missing boll weevil.

And no one sought goofy stories, or ones that were easily made to seem goofy, like The Daily Show. The story was tailor-made for them, and they ran with it. Craig Kilborn was host at the time, and A. Whitney Brown was the “reporter” on the case.

It was actually a funny segment for the most part, though not all locals agreed. It aired on Aug. 13, 1998, with the premise that the people of Enterprise worshiped the bug and bad times had fallen on the city without its idol in place.
In the segment, titled “See No Weevil,” Brown said of Enterprise: “For generations, inhabitants have worshipped the boll weevil with a pagan fervor centered around a sacred idol to the insect pest in the town square. And all was well in Boll Weevil City until someone stole their magic weevil.”
Screen shot from "See No Weevil"

Cut to pictures of tribesmen dancing and bowing down with an overlay of the monument’s weevil floating above them. Later Brown discusses how with the weevil gone, crops are ruined and the women infertile (cut to a shot of some elderly local ladies).
Several of Enterprise's prominent senior citizens were gathered for an interview. These were various writers and businessmen and what have you. And here comes the hitch: they may have thought The Daily Show was a legitimate news program. The locally well-known Enterprise author who rounded up the others to take part in the interview thought it was an NBC news show.
Screen shot from "See No Weevil"
I have no idea if The Daily Show actually lied about being from NBC, or if the Enterprise man who was contacted just assumed that. The title The Daily Show sounded like a legitimate news program back then -- it had only been on air for two years, and it was on Comedy Central at that. Not everyone got that channel, and not everyone watched it even if it was on their cable package. The Daily Show certainly wasn’t must-see TV for people who could remember World War II first hand. I don't remember it being anywhere near as popular then as it is now. It would've been understandable if participants hadn't heard of it.
So there’s the dilemma – it was a funny segment for the most part, and it was kind of cool to see our small town get coverage on a national TV show. But IF the interview subjects were told it was a legitimate news show, it was rather unfair (and it's unknown if all of the participants thought it was a legitmate news show or not). Some residents thought it was an "attack" on the interview subjects. I didn't think so (and certainly most people I knew who'd seen it enjoyed the segment).

It largely didn't seem like an attack because it was obvious the footage had been doctored and anyone could tell the answers given weren't always to the actual questions Brown was shown asking. Did anyone really believe a local businessman was talking about praying to the bug everyday? I don't think so. Whether the interview subjects were laughing or fuming after the show aired probably depends on their own ways of looking at things.

Love it or hate it, The Daily Show featuring the Boll Weevil Monument was a memorable moment in the history of the town and its beloved bug.


Leslie said...

Hi! Do you know if there is a copy of the Daily Show segment floating around anywhere in cyberspace? I watched it before and thought it was hilarious...I have to do a presentation on my "hometown" in a few weeks and would love to have this clip for my presentation. Please help!!! Thanks!

Weevil Chick said...

Unfortunately none that I know of. There are Daily Show archives online, but they stop at 1999.

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