The Daily Show Convention Sideshow

For its presence at 2016’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Comedy Central engaged Sub Rosa to concept and activate a political carnival like no other. The Daily Show Convention Sideshow came to life through an unexpectedly engaging experience that captivated attendees, media outlets, and Daily Show fans alike.

Client Conversation

Sub Rosa worked with the team at Comedy Central to position the network as the premiere source for political satire, told through the signature Daily Show style. Comedy Central sought an experience that would utilize the Republican National Convention as an opportunity to increase engagement with 18-34-year-olds by tapping into new technology and unique experiential approaches.


Sub Rosa saw the project as an opportunity to generate buzz and provide a bigger presence on the ground at the conventions through a one-of-a-kind, technology-driven experience. This thematic concept inspired vibrant, retro design cues utilizing typographically-led, richly textured, and bold visuals typically found at vintage state fairs, carnivals, and circuses; adapting and juxtaposing nicely against the contemporary visual perspective of The Daily Show.

Our Work

Sub Rosa developed six key attractions for the project:

  • The Hall of Not Presidents: a mirrored hallway which featured fun house caricatures resembling the election cycle’s most familiar faces.
  • The Yuuuuge Wall: Spanning the length of the space, The Yuuuuge Wall was a playful take on the Republican nominee’s divisive plans for permanent border control. Local artists and attendees were engaged throughout the activation, each adding their own take on political graffiti.
  • Run for the Border: Designed as a hybrid physical and digital remix of classic carnival horse race games, the attraction projected player characters on physical lanes, which changed based on projection-mapped selections from players. After players are introduced to the race, a raucous, frenetic competition ensues to see who can flee the insanity of the political primaries and naturalize as a Canadian or Mexican citizen, and who will be denied entry. Across the two-day activation, visitors bash the buttons over 130,000 times.
  • Grab-A-Delegate: Designed as a glass booth filled with flying political ephemera–diplomas from one nominee’s infamous “university,” deleted emails, paper delegates–the game allowed participants to compete against one another in grabbing as many paper points as possible.
  • Hot Button Issues: This whack-a-mole inspired game gave players the chance to “lay the smack down” on some of today’s most controversial issues like LGBT rights, ISIS, immigration, healthcare, gun control, and climate change.
  • The Daily Show Desk: The sideshow offered guests the best seat in the house with a replica of Trevor Noah’s desk. Guests could conduct mock interviews and utilize a digital kiosk to capture studio-quality images of themselves playing correspondent with built-in social sharing.


The Convention Sideshow turned the 2016 presidential election’s most cringeworthy references into interactive fun and games for all ages and party leanings. Whether mocking Hillary’s antics or Donald’s blunders, the activation was an equal opportunity offender in its send-ups of key election cycle personalities. The activation hosted hundreds of attendees and saw earned media coverage in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Politico, Mic, Refinery29, Deadline, A/V Club, Elite Daily, among others.

"The Daily Show is the early favorite for best [RNC] activation." -- Huffington Post Politics