When Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” called on Jim Mather recently and wanted to do an interview about his work locally with refugees and internationals, he agreed despite his own trepidations about appearing on a show where the expectation is that those being interviewed will probably end up looking foolish.
Mather is the director of Friends International, an organization working primarily with international students at the University of South Alabama and some other local schools. He said the “Daily Show” sent its “reporter,” Desi Lydic, to interview him at his home last week. That opportunity came, he says, because of another interview he did last year with BBC America around the time of the presidential primaries when Donald Trump was taking a tough stance against illegal immigration.
“I got a call a few weeks ago,” Mather said. “I guess they do their research and saw that BBC interview.”
Mather said that while he’s not a regular viewer of “The Daily Show” — a blend of the day’s news squeezed through a political and comedic meat grinder — he knew enough to have some misgivings. But as an ordained minister Mather also felt like the interview could have a positive effect, even if he came off looking silly in the process.
“If somebody’s going to look bad on TV, I don’t mind if it’s me. As long as something good comes of it,” he said.
Mather set up the interview at his home, along with some international friends and Jeri Stroade, who heads up Dwell Mobile, an organization that helps refugees and internationals. They served a dinner of ethnic foods — along with some Hart’s Fried Chicken for local flavor.
Mather says he felt like the interview may not have quite lived up to Comedy Central’s expectations. He felt like Lydic was trying repeatedly to get someone to say something “racist or stupid,” but no one took the bait.
“She seemed to struggle,” he said. “It took really long because they were trying for something that wasn’t there.”
The show’s producers told him Alabama has the lowest ratings for “The Daily Show” in the country and at one point Mather says he offered them a bit of advice.
“I told them at the end of the day if all they do is negative they’ll be burned out in three years,” he said.
He admits to being a fan of “The Daily Show’s” former host Jon Stewart, but hasn’t watched much of his replacement, Trevor Noah.
Though he has no idea when or even if his segment will air, Mather says he is comfortable with however the farcical news show ends up portraying his interview. They also did several others around the state for the story, so Mather says they may have gotten more of what they were looking for elsewhere.
Ultimately Mather felt the potential “dangers” of being interviewed for a show that needs people to say dumb things to get laughs were outweighed by the potential good that could come from giving his and Stroade’s programs publicity.
“It’s a shark tank,” he said, “But I enjoyed some aspects of it. At least they got to hear my heart…. But it’s not for the timid, that’s for sure.”