‘The Daily Show’ Writer Jason O. Gilbert’s Grub Street Diet
Gilbert and his ham-loving dog, Audrey.
Illustration: Lindsay Mound
Since January, The Daily Show has looked a little different each week with a new guest host — Leslie Jones, Wanda Sykes, Sarah Silverman — sitting behind the desk. For Jason O. Gilbert, who has been a writer on the show since 2019, it has been something of a dream: “When you’re younger, you’re just hoping you reach a level where you can be in the same room as these people.” Even if the hosts change, the schedule does not — “You have to be ready to watch a lot of news and start riffing jokes at, like, 9:30 a.m. on a Monday” — and at home, Gilbert does his best to maintain a similar commitment to routine, even if his baby daughter does her best to disrupt things.
Wednesday, March 1
I am up at 6 a.m., because I have a 7-month-old daughter. I was also up at 12 a.m., 2 a.m., and 3 a.m., but that’s not important for this Grub Street Diet.
I have two cups of coffee while we get Gigi ready for day care. Because I am a Jewish person over the age of 12, I have stomach problems if I consume lactose, so I have recently become a Fairlife convert. I add some lactose-free whole milk to my coffee.
I get to The Daily Show office, which is right above the studio, around 9 a.m. It’s a dog-friendly office, so I bring my pet wiener dog, Audrey. Can I plug my wiener dog’s Instagram? Is that acceptable here? I write a lot about politics, systemic failure, and racists, and it brings me a lot of joy to get home and write from the point of view of a wiener dog who loves ham.
One day a week, the show provides breakfast sandwiches for the staff. I grab an egg-and-cheese sandwich on a roll and slather it in Crystal Hot Sauce before our morning production meeting.
I grab another coffee (Nespresso with lactose-free milk) for the meeting, which is where all the writers, producers, and this week’s host, Hasan Minhaj, watch news clips of the major stories of the day and begin to shape the show. Tonight’s episode is about the East Palestine train disaster. Get ready to laugh!
After the production meeting, my co-writer Ashton Womack and I write a sketch starring the following week’s host, Marlon Wayans. The sketch involves watching lots of clips of old Marlon Wayans movies, and it turns out that he is naked in, like, every movie he has done since 2000. A good portion of my morning is spent sipping coffee and staring at Marlon Wayans’s ass. I’m like that meme of Matthew McConaughey from True Detective, smoking a cig and staring at his phone, except what I am staring at is Marlon Wayans’s bare butt.
In addition to writing for the TV show, I am the writer for The Daily Show’s digital team. We come up with a lot of “digital-only content” for our various social-media platforms in addition to the jokes you see on Twitter. We meet separately every morning to discuss whether there’s any comedy we can make that doesn’t require the host. Today, we watch a bunch of clips — including a hilarious one of Marjorie Taylor Greene absolutely failing to read a big number during a Congressional hearing. I suggest that she sounds like me, really drunk, trying to sing “Seasons of Love” from Rent at karaoke, and a brilliant editor on our team, Ryan Middleton, takes that and runs with it. He lays the karaoke track from Rent underneath MTG, and we’ve got a quick, fun video.
After that meeting, I join all the writers in coming up with jokes about the stories of the day. The chemical train disaster is … not the funniest story in the world? It’s no “Trump staring at an eclipse,” but we’ve got an angle.
I try to have a light lunch, because it is physically impossible for me to write comedy when I am too full. I just want to nap. We get a catered buffet once a week, and the day after that catered lunch, there are always leftovers. This week’s lunch came from Havana Central, a Cuban restaurant. I make myself a bowl with rice, black beans, plantains, and broccoli. I pair that with a lime LaCroix, because I’m nervous about scurvy, I guess.
Rehearsal is around 2:30 p.m. Hasan is going to delete his Twitter account in a dramatic fashion on tonight’s show, so we watch him practice doing that. It is an emotionally draining spectacle. Afterward, I grab a watermelon LaCroix and two Sour Patch Kids. We have big candy bowls outside the studio with individually wrapped Snickers, Reese’s Cups, Almond Joys, et cetera, and there are individually wrapped Sour Patch Kids, which I had never seen before.
After working on a sketch for Kal Penn’s week, I head home around 6 p.m. Dinner needs to be quick, because it’s already late and we have to start putting our daughter to bed. Tonight, I pan-fry some frozen dumplings (Wegmans brand) and lo mein noodles. I finish both with dark soy sauce, Momofuku chile crisp, and chopped scallions.
After we get Gigi to sleep, I am so tired. I just need to relax. I make myself an ice cream: a scoop of Breyers vanilla with Snickers pieces. Don’t get me wrong, I love a $12 pint of Brooklyn artisanal cardamom-bisque gelato, but sometimes all you need is freezer-aisle vanilla and candy. I eat the ice cream cone, and I fall asleep on the couch listening to the new Avey Tare album. My life is unbearably glamorous.
Thursday, March 2
My daughter sleeps through the night! Today is going to be good. I eat a banana before heading to work, then at work, I grab a bagel from the pantry, toast it, and drench it in margarine.
Today is Hasan’s last day hosting the show. I’ll be sad to see him go. Because we have a different guest host each week, Thursdays are always bittersweet.
For lunch, I have a roast-beef sandwich — Muenster cheese, tomatoes, and mayo on a whole-wheat bun — with a bag of Utz chips. And there is a surprise for dessert: Hasan bought cookies from Chip City for the entire staff. I grab a funfetti cookie and eat it in my office like a little rat.
Dinner is, again, a quick affair. Every Thursday night, we’ve done Taco Thursday. I make chicken thighs with sautéed peppers and onions, cut up some avocado, and pull out some salsa and cotija cheese. My wife and I are obsessed with the tortilla chips from Mi Niña that are jalapeño-agave flavored. We love to try new foods and new restaurants, but we are both the type of people who, when we find something we like, really ride that something until we can’t anymore. My college roommate has a 3-year-old, and he was telling me that there was a year when the only thing she would eat was Korean brisket from a chain in D.C., where they live. Every week, they’d get the brisket for her, and she was happy. I get it. I guess I’m like a toddler in that way.
Friday, March 3
Gigi is up at 6 a.m. More coffee and a banana before I drop her off at day care. Then I grab a Nature’s Bakery Fig Bar. When my wife was pregnant, she was diagnosed with gestational diabetes, which meant that she had to cut a bunch of carbs and sugars out of her diet. We started incorporating lots of gluten-free and “GD-friendly” foods into our diets, one of which was these breakfast bars, which are somewhere between a Nutri-Grain bar and a Fig Newton.
On Fridays, we work from home. There’s no actual show, so we use today to get ahead for the following week. Via Zoom, we watch some clips from CPAC, which is like a Gathering of the Juggalos for Republicans. This year is mostly old men complaining about wokeness and trans people and, of course, immigration but also mask mandates. I then watch Marlon Wayans’s new standup special on HBO Max to get a feel for his comedic voice. It has honestly been really exciting to meet the new hosts every week, who all have established sensibilities and points of view, then figuring out what they’re into, what news they watch, the topics they’re passionate about, their humor. It’s cool when you learn who a new host will be and you can immediately hear them deliver a joke. In college, we used to do these exercises, like, “write in the style of Ernest Hemingway” or “write in the style of J. D. Salinger,” and the last few months on the show have been like that — writing jokes in a different style each week.
Lunch is a sandwich and some leftover kale salad, then dinner is Han Dynasty. We do Chinese every Friday night. Tonight, it’s dan dan noodles, wontons in chile oil, three-cup chicken, and beef with black-bean sauce. You probably noticed that Taco Thursdays and now Chinese-food Fridays. We have salad on Mondays and Sweetgreen on Tuesdays — which is different from the salad nights, because I get a bowl. I think this really started during the pandemic: We all had this boundless existence where we weren’t leaving our apartments very often. This added some structure — the scheduled nightly meals replaced my commute in a way. And it’s not always the same. On the nights that I’m cooking, I almost never use a recipe. I throw a bunch of different spices or sauces together and hope for the best. I can promise you that if I made chicken-thigh tacos for you one Thursday, then chicken-thigh tacos for you the next Thursday, the chicken thighs would not taste the same. In the kitchen, I’m like a monkey banging on a typewriter. I’m just trying to balance spices and not give anyone salmonella.
Saturday, March 4
Wake-up time is closer to 7 a.m. today. We have a party at Gigi’s day care, and while there, I eat a sugar cookie. The weather is nice, and Gigi is asleep in her carrier, so we decide to walk around a bit. We go to Devoción for lattes. I get a dulce de leche kouign-amann and my wife gets a croissant, and we kind of split that. My wife is carrying the baby in a Baby Björn. Eating a croissant over her head turns out to be a disaster. She’s still sleeping, though, so we walk through Brooklyn Bridge Park and turn around and go to Almondine Bakery and grab a baguette. That is my lunch: just baguette, butter, and salt.
Later, we go to this new cocktail bar that just opened in Dumbo called Gair. We are sort of regulars at this point. We like to go on the weekends and have a cocktail. We also split a basket of fries.
At home, I’m craving Thai, so we order from Thaism. When I graduated from college, I had a vague idea that I wanted to write, but I didn’t know what I wanted to “do.” So I moved to Thailand for a year and taught English at a school there. I love Thaism, because it reminds me of the street food you’d get there. I order some pad see ew and watch the Hawks-Heat game. It does not go well for the Hawks, so I eat some gummy worms.
Sunday, March 5
I wake up and pour myself a coffee. On Sundays, I like to drink this weird hydrating powder. It’s called LMNT, and I think it’s a Gatorade alternative for keto people? A friend who runs marathons introduced me. I love the Watermelon Salt flavor in my water and how energized I feel after drinking it.
Also, I know that my brain has been totally poisoned by online. Do you know how I know? This is how: Remember that profile of the CEO of Peloton, where he says he starts every day by drinking 40 sips of water from his bathroom sink because it wakes him up? It went semi-viral. Now, whenever I drink water in the morning, I immediately think of that Peloton CEO. Something in my brain makes me start taking quick sips, just like him, just in case he is right about water.
For breakfast, my wife makes us fruit smoothies with blueberries, strawberries, banana, Greek yogurt, some peanut butter, and honey.
It’s nice out, so we go for another walk. We hit up Beepublic to get lattes and a slice of banana-honey bread, then lunch is leftovers from Han Dynasty.
For Sunday-night dinner, I always make something that will have a lot of leftovers. Today, I make a kind of spicy pulled-pork tomato sauce and ziti. It’s based loosely on this recipe from the New York Times. I love Times recipes both for the ridiculous Upper West Side commenters and because the top comments offer excellent suggestions for how to make any recipe better. I would never publish a recipe in the Times, because you’re constantly getting owned in the comments: “This chef CLEARLY didn’t try their own recipe. I had to double the chicken broth and add a ton of paprika so that it didn’t taste like a wet napkin.” I’d rather have people tweet at me to tell me I’m not funny. Which, lucky me, is basically a prerequisite for being a comedy writer on Twitter. It used to get to me but not anymore. I can comfort myself with individually wrapped Sour Patch Kids now.