Of all Daily Show correspondents, Steve Carell—from the early period of Jon Stewart’s reign, an era some of us fondly remember as the one watched before we had kids—felt the most resolutely apolitical. His trademark was obliviousness confronting obliviousness; his absolute commitment to character not only set the tone for the next decade-plus worth of fake news people, it also presaged his latest career turn as serious dramatic actor. Back then, the Foxcatcher star did not need to be layered in prosthetics to creep us out: there was no physical limit he wouldn’t go to to surprise or make us feel awkward.
He was equally dexterous verbally, but it was what he didn’t say that most impressed the boss. “The beauty of Steve Carell is in silence,” Stewart told The Hollywood Reporter. “He knows how to create silence better than anyone I have ever worked with.”
Here are Carrel’s five most Trunkworthy moments as a TDS correspondent, ones that show the full spectrum of the inspired idiocy the Second City vet brought to his five-year stint as a staffer and guest on the late-night stalwart.
1. “Indecision 2000: McCain Campaign Bus” (Dec. 16 1999)
Carell sweet-talks the senator’s wife into a seat on McCain’s “Straight Talk Express” and the interview of his career…and blows it spectacularly.
2. “Too Hot For TV” (April 19, 2000)
Beware the horrifying dangers of yule log programming!
3. “Produce Pete with Steve Carell: Cider” (Feb 23, 2004)
Kiss your winter blues “bye bye” with Produce Pete’s secret recipe for mulled cider. And rum.
4. “Everyone Has a Story” (Nov. 1, 2001)
Everyone in Mechanicville, New York has a story. They’re just not all that interesting.
5. “Even Stevphen: Islam Vs. Christianity” (May 29, 2003)
Carell goes god-to-god with Colbert, finding common ground in John Stewart. “Maybe the Jew is right?”