Jon Stewart reinvented The Daily Show into a political powerhouse after taking it over from Craig Kilborn in 1999. Odds are whoever replaces the departing Stewart won’t have the freedom to change the show as much as Stewart did. It’s too established and too important to Comedy Central’s bottom line to mess that much with its basic structure. Still, this is a great opportunity for the network to revitalize its flagship show with new energy and a new voice, and hopefully they pick one of the talented people below to take over Stewart’s desk.
If Jon Stewart had just told Comedy Central that he was leaving a year and a half ago there wouldn’t be much question about who was taking his place. In the last 18 months three former heirs apparent have left The Daily Show or Comedy Central for new programs of their own. It wouldn’t surprise us to see Larry Wilmore take over the mothership far earlier than anybody expected, but in this list we’re not going to mention anybody who was being groomed for the job before leaving for their own shows. And anyway, we wouldn’t want to see John Oliver leave HBO or Stephen Colbert return to political comedy without his right-wing character.
The dapper comedian already hosts the great politically based comedy show No, You Shut Up. That show isn’t as biting or serious as The Daily Show can get under Stewart, so perhaps Tompkins would bring a less weary tone to the show. Of course he’s working with puppets on No, You Shut Up, so perhaps he’d leave the goofiness behind if he took over the biggest political comedy show on TV. Either way he’s a smart man and a great comedian who would bring an energy to the show that’s very different from Jon Stewart’s.—Garrett Martin
As The Daily Show’s two most senior correspondents, Jason Jones and Samantha Bee are both obvious candidates for the anchor desk, but there’s an even stronger argument to made for the husband-wife duo hosting the show jointly. In fact, that’s how Comedy Central handled one of Stewart’s most recent absences, with Bee and Jones acting as an interviewing tag-team. And while two hosts is a bit unconventional for late-night, it would hardly be a first for a talk show: daytime programs have relied on the format for decades.—Hudson Hongo
Accessible and fearless, Jessica Williams has stood out as a correspondent on The Daily Show thanks to her biting commentary on sexism, racism and the trials of the millennial culture. Additionally, Williams seems to have already planned on one day running something of her own, pitching a more sophisticated celebrity gossip site in a Wired editorial last December. Whether that would be a Daily Show spinoff or a reinvention of the show itself is a question best left to Williams and the executives at Comedy Central, but the piece demonstrates everything that makes the comedian great. Smart, up-to-date, and confident in her strengths, Williams would be a strong choice for a show with a tradition of fostering diverse perspectives.—Carli Velocci
As one of the only recent “Weekend Update” anchors not currently hosting a late-night talk show, Tina Fey is another no-brainer for Stewart’s empty seat. Many have also floated her former “Update” co-host Amy Poehler as a possible choice, but having served as Saturday Night Live’s head writer from 1999-2006, Fey already has years of experience taking point on a comedy institution like The Daily Show, .—HH
Jordan Peele or Keegan-Michael Key could both play the well-groomed, unflappable TV news anchor while bringing a subversive new perspective to the show. Amy Schumer could introduce a whole legion of gender and sexuality issues that Stewart never quite had the authority to discuss. Andy Daly already has the look and demeanor of a cable news anchor and brilliantly skewers white male entitlement and the television industry in Review. Just keep anybody involved with Brickleberry away from the desk.—GM
Strong didn’t spend enough time on SNL’s “Weekend Update” desk to really prove her news parody bona fides, but she improved greatly in her second season. She’s such a confident and polished performer on SNL that it doesn’t seem like it’d be a stretch for her to take over something like The Daily Show. And again, she’d bring a perspective that is hard to find on the current late night dial.—GM
Peter Grosz might not be a household name, but as a panelist for NPR’s Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!, the former Colbert Report writer consistently delivers some of the show’s sharpest jabs about American politics and the week’s news. Grosz isn’t completely devoid of hosting experience either, having taken over for Wait Wait host Peter Sagal on several memorable occasions.—HH
This is the biggest reach on our list. Yes, as a wrestler Mick Foley was best known for getting tossed off a cage, bleeding all over Japan and the Lower 48, and getting an ear ripped off his head in a match in Germany. Today he’s more interested in comedy and activism, working with Tori Amos’ RAINN charity and speaking on behalf of the Democratic Party. He’s made a handful of appearances on The Daily Show over the years, earning the title of “Senior Ass Kicker.” He probably wouldn’t be the most polished host at first, but he’d definitely be one of the most surprising choices Comedy Central could make.—GM
Maybe they could do a hologram, or one of those super realistic robots that know how to dance and feel empathy. Jim Henson’s people could probably make an elaborate Jon Stewart puppet. Either hire a voice actor who can nail the voice or use computers to splice new lines out of his 17 years’ worth of existing episodes. It’d be awkward at first, but America would get used to it. We are a strong and resilient nation. Plus all TV is probably headed in this direction, anyway.—GM