A little over a year ago, the line of succession at “The Daily Show” was clear, and it was deep. If Jon Stewart were to step down – maybe to finally take that broadcast network late-night job he'd always been rumored for – then Stephen Colbert would get the job. If Colbert didn't want to leave “The Colbert Report,” then John Oliver had just wrapped up a brilliant stint filling in for Stewart over the summer. And if Oliver was somehow unavailable, well… “The Daily Show” had a lot of talented people on that bench like Samantha Bee, Jason Jones and Larry Wilmore.
And then… things got complicated. Oliver left to do “Last Week Tonight” for HBO – a decision he doesn't seem to regret in the slightest, based on the sheer joy on his face during each installment. David Letterman retired, and CBS moved quickly to hire Colbert to replace him. Wilmore was promoted to succeed Colbert as host of the new “The Nightly Show.”
So now that Jon Stewart has announced his “Daily Show” retirement, who's left to succeed him?
Bee and Jones are still there, and the married duo could bring a new energy to the show as co-hosts. Or if Comedy Central wants to promote from within while continuing to bring more diversity to late-night (which is all-male and, save for Wilmore, all-white), Jessica Williams or Aasif Mandvi have put in their time in the trenches. The instant creative success of both “Last Week Tonight” and “The Nightly Show” suggests “The Daily Show” has become a well-oiled host-producing machine, and it's entirely possible that anyone from the current roster (including occasional contributors like Kristen Schaal) could step up and do the job.
As alums go, I wouldn't expect Steve Carell or John Hodgman to come back to host, but Comedy Central could also reach outside the group affiliated with the show. Remember, waaaay back in the days of
ancient Rome Craig Kilborn, Brian Unger seemed like he was being groomed to take over the show, and instead Comedy Central brought in Stewart, who completely reinvented “The Daily Show” from a superficial parody of local news into what it would become: an institution that eventually grew more respected than the many straight journalists it was lampooning.
And Comedy Central will find a successor for Stewart. The franchise is too important at this point. Johnny Carson got replaced. Letterman is about to be replaced. No cow is too sacred in this business, no matter how great Stewart was.
The HitFix staff has come up with some suggestions below, but I'm curious who y'all might like to see in that chair, whether to continue the basic structure that Stewart set up, or to reinvent “The Daily Show” once again.