With longtime host Jon Stewart announcing his resignation from The Daily Show on Tuesday, by Wednesday morning rumors of his possible replacements were already circulating throughout the media, with speculation coming from just about everywhere, it seemed — except from Comedy Central, the only place that matters.
Doug Herzog, president of Viacom Entertainment Group, which owns Comedy Central and the Daily Show franchise, said that it had yet to be determined what, if any, role the 52-year-old Stewart — whose real name is Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz — would continue to play with the program once he steps down later this year.
Herzog also said that Viacom has already assembled a “short list” of possible Jon Stewart replacements, but shied away from revealing any names that might actually be on such a list.
Though Stewart has occupied the anchor desk at the mock-news program since 1999 and the show is indelibly identified with Stewart’s persona, the comedian is actually the second host in the show’s history. Craig Kilborn was the original host of The Daily Show, occupying the job from 1996 through 1998.
Speculation as to who might be possible replacements for Jon Stewart turned first to former Daily Show “correspondent” John Oliver, who filled in for Stewart throughout the summer of 2013 while Stewart was directing a film. Oliver won accolades for his fill-in stint, but Herzog dismissed that possibility, saying, “John Oliver’s got a job.”
Oliver is the host of the weekly Last Week Tonight show on HBO, which began its second season on February 8. Oliver’s contract with HBO reportedly grants him complete creative control of the show, and on the subscription-supported HBO, he is free from worry about daily and weekly ratings reports.
Another Stewart protege, Stephen Colbert, is also out of the running as he waits to replace David Letterman on the CBS Late Show later this year.
According to USA Today entertainment reporter Donna Freydkin, names that have already been rumored as candidates for Stewart’s seat include two acid-tongued and often sharply political comedians, Chris Rock and Sarah Silverman. Rock is African-American while Silverman is, obviously, a woman, either of whom would provide change of perspective for The Daily Show — and for late-night TV talk shows in general.
Other than Chelsea Handler, whose Chelsea Lately program airs on the E! Network, the late-night talk field has been the domain of white men. Larry Wilmore, host of The Nightly Show — a show produced by Jon Stewart and which follows The Daily Show on Comedy Central — is an African-American and a rare exception to the homogeneity of late night talk show hosts.
Other names rumored as possible Jon Stewart replacements include current Daily Show correspondent Jessica Williams — an African-American woman — and comedian W. Kamau Bell, also African-American, whose program Totally Biased ran briefly on the FX Network to critical acclaim but low ratings.
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