Recent reports suggest Comedy Central is mulling over a short list of possible replacements for The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart. Stewart, who has hosted the show for nearly two decades, announced he would leave the anchor chair sometime in 2015 – most likely in the fall when his contract expires.
Bloggers are pegging any number of Daily Show correspondents and frequent guests as likely replacements. While there are a fair number of funny satirists on staff, finding someone to match the political and satirical gravitas Stewart built over those years will be extremely difficult.
The scary truth may be that The Daily Show will need to evolve to fit the presenter (comedian, satirist, columnist) Comedy Central final hires. In short, the third iteration of The Daily Show will be as different from the last as Stewart’s was from Craig Kilborn’s.
So, yes, in a manner of speaking, The Daily Show is like Dr. Who.
Who could replace Jon Stewart? Who might be on that Comedy Central shortlist? Here are my top five guesses:
1. John Oliver (The Obvious One)
Nevermind that Comedy Central says he has a job and he’s spoken for (HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver), Oliver is the clear choice to replace Stewart. Do we think it will happen. Probably not. But crazier things have happened. I mean, if Sony and Disney can find a way to share Spider-Man, HBO and Comedy Central could strike a deal to allow Oliver to host The Daily Show Monday through Thursday, then head over to HBO for his Sunday show. True, it would be a heavy workload. But with some revamping, it might be possible. Oliver hosted The Daily Show during the summer of 2013 while Stewart was on sabbatical, directing the feature film Rosewater. Oliver won over audiences and critics with his performance, which eventually led to his HBO program.
2. Mo Rocca (The Nostalgic One)
Mo Rocca was one of the show’s most popular correspondents while serving on the show from 1998 to 2003. While his headline news delivery likely wouldn’t come across in the same powerful cadence as Stewart or Oliver, his reputation as a newsman for CBS news and his regular appearances as a panelist on the NPR quiz show Wait, Wait … Don’t Tell Me! provide him with journalism bona fides many comedians and satirists can’t match. His delivery would be markedly different. Rocca’s cadence is often nasally and a little whining at times. But his interview skills are top notch and he’d come ready to play.
3. Cole Bolton (The Dark Horse)
You may not know Cole Bolton by name, but if you like your satire biting and hilarious, you know his work. Bolton is the editor of The Onion, once a weekly news satire shared freely among college campuses and hip urban areas. I have no idea how well he would be in front of a live studio audience, but the style of satire his publication delivers is the caliber of news satire Comedy Central and Daily Show producers need to consider. Amazingly, Bolton was an economist working for the Federal Reserve Bank in Chicago when he landed a gig with The Onion. His sense of humor, timing and wit carried him to editor of the tabloid and online publication.
4. Andy Borowitz (The Favorite)
A shout-out to this Cleveland-area native who publishes the popular The Borowitz Report. The politically satirical column, now a part of the The New Yorker, started as a email from comedian and writer Borowitz to his friends. At the time, he was a successful comedy writer on shows like Square Pegs and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. The email became a blog that became a website, before it was purchased by The New Yorker. Borowitz’s notoriety grew, and he even landed a spot as a guest political report on The Daily Show during the 2004 Democratic National Convention. One thing led to another, and Borowitz started picking up all kinds of accolades: Rave reviews for his “Countdown to Election,” guest starring Arianna Huffington, Mo Rocca, Jonathan Alter, Joy Behar, and Jeffrey Toobin. CBS Sunday Morning named him one of the funniest people in America. In many ways, Borowitz is the odds-on favorite to succeed Stewart (if John Oliver does not return).
5. Tina Fey (The Dream Anchor)
It won’t happen. I know it won’t happen. You know it won’t happen. But if you can’t have John Oliver, Tina Fey is he fake news anchor you want behind that desk. Fey revolutionized Weekend Update on Saturday Night Live, bringing a style and sensibility all her own to the segment. That creative satire continues today, even though Fey has been off the show for nearly a decade. Fey brings with her to two things you desperately need for The Daily Show – an absurd sense of humor and a passion for calling out political inconsistencies and spotlighting social causes.