Want to sum up the 2012 presidential election with a single handy turn of phrase? Try one that The Daily Show dreamed up in September, shortly after Mitt Romney’s infamous “47 percent” video hit the Internet: “Chaos on Bulls#%t Mountain.” The term itself and the segment it introduced perfectly encapsulated the frustration many voters felt while watching cable news — while also making them laugh hard enough to forget all about the election’s pettiest moments. Here, Daily Show executive producer Rory Albanese — who’s “gotten a lot of gray hairs” while skewering the past four presidential elections — explains how Bulls#%t Mountain came to be, and gives a few hints about what we can expect from Jon Stewart and Co. in 2013. (Just don’t hold your breath for official Bulls#%t Mountain T-shirts… although Albanese admits they might be a “pretty hot item.”)
For more stories behind this year’s top TV and movie moments, click here for EW.com’s Best of 2012 (Behind the Scenes) coverage.
As told by: Rory Albanese
During the election season, so much stuff’s flying in — everyone’s working at this crazy pace, and when something like [the 47 percent video] happens, you go, “Oh yeah, there’s going to be a lot of jokes about this.” You kind of know when you strike gold. Like when Clint Eastwood was yelling at a chair — I went home that night laughing. Sometimes, you’re just handed a gift. So that piece of footage garnered that same reaction, which was, “This is going to be a thing.”
Bulls#%t Mountain was literally all Jon Stewart. It sounds funny, me saying that, because obviously he’s the boss, but in the morning, sometimes he’ll come into the writers’ meeting and just have these eureka moments. He’ll be like, “I was up last night at 3, and I realized…” So he walked into a meeting and goes, “I got it, guys. Bulls#%t Mountain.” He had it all formulated in his head. The reason I remember it so distinctly is ‘cause I said, “It can’t be Bulls#%t Mountain. It’s got to be Bulls#%t Castle, or Bulls#%t Keep. It’s got to be something they’re defending.” He’s like, “No, no, no, Bulls#%t Mountain. Trust me.” And then the day afterwards, people grabbed onto it and loved it. The first thing he said to me was, “Ahh, what do you think about that, Bulls#%t Castle?” Obviously, I was wrong.
But that’s the thing about Jon: he’s so involved in the process, and he’s so sharp and he’s so funny, that I always tell people it’s really easy to write jokes for him. Even if you were to write a joke that’s not good, he’ll make it funny. It’s very tough to fail as a writer for Jon Stewart. I’m not saying the writers are bad — they’re amazing, and a lot of the reason the show is as good as it is. But he’s just very good.
So we’ll talk it through, and then two writers will be assigned that piece of the show. They’ll write it up, and then we’ll read it through, give it back to the writers, they’ll write another draft. And then we’ll take it, rehearse it. Then the graphics department — we’ll tell them we want to make an open called Bulls#%t Mountain, and those guys will create that giant graphic open you see. It usually explodes at the end. The challenge is always finding the point of view; making it funny is easy because the building is full of very funny people. The comedy part is almost less of our concern than anything else.
You can spoil something that works by overusing it, and [Bulls#%t Mountain] did come up a few more times. But the thing about our show is the next day, we’re watching something equally as crazy that the Democrats did. So for us, jokes or ideas get old fairly quickly. Bulls#%t Mountain actually had a longer shelf life than most things.
[The election itself] is a little bit anticlimactic — we do our live show, and there’s this feeling of, “Wow, it’s over.” And then we just come in the next morning at 9 a.m. and do another show. There’s not really a big celebration. We don’t have time to enjoy it. I think by the end of the run, everybody feels like some time off and some turkey is exactly what we need. [Now that we’re back], the fiscal cliff thing will be big, and second term Obama — a lot of people were saying to us four years ago, “What are you going to do with Obama in office?” Well, we’ll just keep making fun of the guy. We’ve had so much fun with the whole idea of the excitement around him getting into office, and then the reality of what it is to be a politician. It’s a different narrative than we had four years before, but there’s definitely a lot of comedy to be had there.