Opening a week of shows at Chicago’s Athenaeum Theatre called “The Daily Show Undesked Chicago 2017: Let’s Do This Before It Gets Too Damn Cold,” Daily Show host Trevor Noah broke out his standup shoes in a monologue that called out the manner in which that city is routinely used as Donald Trump and Fox News’ shorthand for “violent black people.” Calling Chicago (also the A.V. Club’s home base) “a microcosm of the issues the country faces,” Noah called out Trump and his Fox friends by showing a montage of their hyperbolic fear-mongering that, as he noted, hollers about Chicago’s regrettable rep as “the murder capital of America” while ignoring the fact that a whole lot of cities (that Barack Obama didn’t grow up in) have a statistically higher per capita murder rate than the Windy City. He also pointed out that conservatives are all too happy to call Chicago “Obama’s home town” when it comes to pinning violent crime on the former president, whereas his place of birth is accused of being a lot closer to Kenya the rest of the time. Zing.
Still, Noah’s not in Chicago to deny that Chicago has a serious gun violence problem. (One exacerbated by the lax gun laws of neighboring state and Mike Pence’s pre-Number One Observatory Circle stomping ground Indiana.) After repeating Trump’s totally not-made-up conversation with an unnamed Chicago cop who 100 per cent told Trump he could fix Chicago’s violence problem “in a couple of days” if Trump would just turn the city into a militarized police state, Noah turned the show over to correspondent Roy Wood Jr. Actually talking to the people of Chicago, Wood brought a more constructive, street-level, and “not the product of a would-be dictator’s racist fantasies” approach, as exemplified by the good Chicago men and women of CeaseFire.
Brought on a ride-along with U.S. Floyd, an activist (and self-described former gang member and drug dealer) with the groundbreaking anti-violence group, Wood showed how CeaseFire’s “violence interrupters’” tireless efforts to mediate non-violence in Chicago’s roughest neighborhoods continue to urge people to find alternatives. The group (also profiled in Steve James’ aptly titled documentary The Interrupters) has, according to Wood’s typically funny and astute reporting, long been a potent force in grassroots community activism, showing real results in reducing violent confrontations throughout those parts of Chicago Noah showed Trump and company referring to “worse than Afghanistan” in their strident attacks. (Wood also mocked up a trailer for a de-escalation-centered basic cable cop-style show called Mouthside Chicago, about the intrepid folks of CeaseFire as they actually talk to people about gun violence rather than threaten to have National Guard troops patrolling the streets.)
Noting that none of these right-wing news and politics types show anything like concern for the people affected by Chicago’s very real issues, or for addressing the lack of jobs and opportunities that promote those issues, Wood cited CeaseFire as “what actual crime fighting looks like.” In keeping with the rest of The Daily Show’s Chicago mission this week (which will feature Chicago-centric guests like Arne Duncan, Curtis Toler, Lena Waithe, Vic Mensa, and tonight’s visitor Common), Wood posits that the city is worthy of being treated as the complex and vital place it is, rather than the go-to punching bag for conservatives pushing their thinly veiled racist agenda.