OPB nearly got to star in “Daily Show” mock-debate sketch

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The cancellation of the GOP presidential debate set for Monday at Oregon Public Broadcasting may have disappointed a lot of people, but the writers at The Daily Show with Jon Stewart saw it as an opportunity for a wacky segment playing up Portland’s offbeat reputation.

Earlier this week, OPB President Steve Bass heard from the show, which originally wanted to cover the debate. But after the event was canceled on Thursday, they still wanted to come — to use the studio set for a segment.

What they were planning “actually sounded pretty funny,” Bass said. The concept: Portland was so disappointed that the event wasn’t happening that a Make-a-Wish Foundation-style organization comes in to grant the city’s wish for a debate. In the sketch, The Daily Show Correspondent Aasif Mandvi would interview Bass and Allen Alley, chair of the Oregon Republican Party, a debate co-sponsor. “They wanted me to be the straight man,” Bass said. “That I could perfectly understand.”

The whole thing sounded like a lot of fun, but ultimately proved problematic given The Daily Show’s notorious comedic edge. With a Portlandia-style sketch, “I could just picture a guy with a bone through his nose playing Newt Gingrich,” Bass said. “If we’re making fun of the debate process, that’s okay, it’s not okay to make fun of the candidates,” given that OPB is a news organization.

So, alas, in addition to the debate that never was, the segment remains The Daily Show gag that never was.

The debate set will get a send-off on Monday, when OPB staff and others in the community involved in planning the event gather in the OPB studio for a farewell lunch.