The other day a friend and I got to talking about possible successors for Jon Stewart as anchor of The Daily Show. I know this seems like an arbitrary question. A more apt topic might be who will succeed David Letterman? Considering Letterman is rapidly approaching seventy, and although he may never want to retire, one day he must. While Stewart, not even fifty, seems entrenched at The Daily Show. Here are a few reasons the Stewart question intrigues me more. One, the fact that Letterman’s successor may already be waiting in the wings over at the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. Two, The Daily Show seems to have a direct aim that the next host will have to continue to carry out, it is a more specific comedy muscle of political humor and satire whereas the next host of Late Night will have carte blanche to redefine the show on his or her own terms. Finally what if Stewart, a Letterman favorite, receives a Godfather offer from CBS and assumes the Letterman throne, knocking over the first domino in the late night landscape?
Some may consider Stephen Colbert the heir apparent to Stewart’s crown, I say not so fast. The Colbert Report kills as a political satire that heavily mocks political theatre and skews the cable news format, but it does so in a different vein than The Daily Show. Colbert plays a character that lampoons the hysteria of modern political pundits, often overly narcissist and ironic. Stewart delivers a look at the political sphere through a comic’s eye with joke heavy sets and humorous observations. It is like comparing an improv act to a stand up act while both administer laughs they are not stylistically similar.
So, what would Comedy Central look for in a Daily Show anchor?
Smart/Politically Aware: This seems pretty obvious, you need someone who can successfully articulate and distill world events and the modern political landscape, while still getting laughs. Sorry Larry the Cable Guy fans.
Ballsy: They say never talk religion or politics, well that’s going to be a big part of the job. Whoever takes this seat will probably offend someone with each joke they spew.
Young: This one is strictly business. Comedy Central’s demographics tilt young and the Daily Show brands itself towards college students, so whoever gets the job will have to appeal to them.
Before we start, take a look at a pre-Daily Show Jon Stewart demonstrating some early glimpses of what he would become.
*Note this is not a Wish List but a survey of the current comedy landscape.
In House Options
Qualifications: One of the best correspondents currently on The Daily Show. He has a stand up background and doesn’t fall into character based segments. He relies on quick wit and a joke centric approach plus he can connect to a college base.
Fatal Flaw: Pretty limited beyond Daily Show.
Qualifications: Another one of the brightest current Daily Show correspondents. A strong stand up from across the pond with various TV and film credits. Very smart, extremely funny and a super talented writer, he offers a lot to the position.
Fatal Flaw: Do you really want to hear a British guy make fun of America every night? It’s one of those “I can make fun of my sister but you can’t” things.
Qualifications: Got his big break on the Daily Show and still occasionally makes an appearance. He also hosted the short lived show on Comedy Central, The Root of All Evil and a few programs on the History Channel. Black also features two hour long HBO stand up specials and a Grammy for Best Comedy Album. He employs a quick tempered look at America’s deficiencies.
Fatal Flaw: Too Old, Too Angry
Over the Hill?
Qualifications: Colin Quinn, known as a comedians’ comedian, has experience parodying the news, he did so for two years as Weekend Update anchor on SNL. He followed that by hosting Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn, a show that served as a lead into The Daily Show. The program featured a panel of comedians led by Quinn discussing current events. Quinn also starred in a one man show on Broadway that HBO later turned into an hour special titled Colin Quinn Long Story Short, where he makes satirical observations of the great world empires throughout history.
Fatal Flaw: Like the title says, too old.
Qualifications: Cross one of the most famous alternative stand up comics unapologetically ridicules religion and is brazenly liberal. He boasts real comic credibility after creating Mr. Show and maintains a young following thanks to Arrested Development. Cross’ stand up features heavy political content and he is not afraid to offend.
Fatal Flaw: Too Preachy
Qualifications: Maron has a long career in stand up but just recently started to receive some buzz thanks to his tremendously popular podcast, WTF. Maron’s political pedigree manifested itself with a politically charged radio show on Air America.
Fatal Flaw: Too Bristly
Qualifications: A lot of people may know Patton as the geeky friend on The King of Queens or from his indie movie roles like Big Fan or Young Adult, but he also owns a much respected stand up career. He released five stand-up albums, three of which finished number one on the US Comedy Billboard charts. He mixes pop culture irreverence with shrewd political observations. He is bright and has a huge young following.
Fatal Flaw: None
Qualifications: Seth Meyers is no stranger to faux news; he currently anchors SNL’s Weekend Update while also functioning as the show’s head writer. He had a successful White House Correspondents’ Diner, a historically tough crowd, where he most notably murdered Donald Trump. At 38, he is the same age as Stewart was when he took over The Daily Show. Meyers an accomplished comedy writer and performer cannot stay at SNL forever.
Fatal Flaw: None