Today’s big news that Stephen Colbert is taking over for David Letterman as host of CBS’s Late Show in 2015 is causing the usual domino effect that a late night host jumping shows usually does, but the line of succession for Colbert’s soon-to-be-vacated slot at Comedy Central isn’t as clear and obvious as NBC and CBS’s recent late night changes. The Colbert Report isn’t a franchise. In addition to his persona and comedic voice being so thoroughly ingrained into the fabric of the show, his name is also built into the title instead of having the “______ with ______” title format that makes for smooth changeovers for other late night shows. The Colbert Report, winner of multiple Emmys and two Peabodys, is held in such high esteem that Comedy Central has some especially big shoes to fill, and it would be tough for the network to find someone similar to Colbert, who’s equally talented as a writer, actor, host, and improviser, to anchor a similar show to The Colbert Report in the 11:30 timeslot. Whatever ends up replacing The Colbert Report will likely have to be something else entirely.
For years before The Colbert Report came along in 2005, Comedy Central struggled to find a series to follow The Daily Show. Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn and Too Late with Adam Carolla didn’t take, and without Colbert, this could easily turn back into a timeslot the network struggles to fill once January rolls around. THR reports that Comedy Central “is looking at all options,” and that it may not even end up being a talk show. Here are four broad guesses at what Comedy Central will develop for its 11:30 slot in 2015:
Pulling from The Daily Show’s Stable of Talent
Part of the reason The Colbert Report proved so popular is because the audience for its lead-in, The Daily Show, already knew and loved longtime correspondent Stephen Colbert, and his series had a similar but different tone and satirized the same subject matter. While John Oliver, who would have been an easy and clear choice to succeed Colbert, may be locked down at HBO, there are still plenty of Daily Show correspondents and contributors who are qualified for the job. Among them, Kristen Schaal, John Hodgman, Jason Jones, Jessica Williams, and the show’s longest-serving correspondent, Samantha Bee, seem like the most viable contenders. Pairing or grouping up the hosts is also an option, like with a show hosted by husband/wife correspondents Jason Jones and Samantha Bee. Wyatt Cenac, who departed The Daily Show in 2012, is also a contender. Cenac, who just sold a script for a sitcom starring and created by himself to AMC, sold a half-hour public affairs-style comedy show created and hosted by himself to Comedy Central a couple years ago, so the network’s been interested in turning him into a host in the past.
Moving @midnight Up a Half-Hour
It doesn’t make much sense given the show’s title, but Comedy Central’s late night Chris Hardwick-hosted game show @midnight has been doing well in the ratings, and the network gave it an early 40-week renewal last year. Of course, bumping @midnight up would mean Comedy Central would no longer have a 90-minute late night block and wouldn’t have an Emmy-winning political show to replace Colbert. The network could just give Chris Hardwick a different show in the 11:30 slot and find a new host for @midnight.
Giving a Show to an Existing Comedy Central Star
Moreso than any other network, Comedy Central has an impressive roster of comedians under contract, between its existing shows, shows that have yet to debut, and pilots in development. Comedy Central stars who the network could see as appealing late night hosts include Daniel Tosh, Workaholics’ Adam DeVine, Nick Kroll, Brody Stevens, Andy Daly, and Amy Schumer, although Schumer especially, and most of the others, are unlikely to leave their own series behind for a nightly show. Comedy Central also has shows/pilots in development starring Hannibal Buress, Natasha Leggero, Kumail Nanjiani, and Jonah Ray, as well as The Chris Gethard Show, which is being developed as a weekly show but could wind up going nightly if the network wants to take a big risk on a show that will definitely be its own thing and not draw Colbert Report comparisons. Host Chris Gethard has been tweeting about the vacant 11:30 slot today:
Giving a Show to a Non-Comedy Central Star
For as much comedic talent as Comedy Central has locked down, there are plenty of people who don’t currently have shows in-development with or on the network. W. Kamau Bell hosted Totally Biased for FX/FXX until it was canceled last year but has expressed an interest in doing a late night show, and his comedy’s socio-political bent would certainly fit in nicely after The Daily Show. Paul F. Tompkins, who hosts the excellent web interview show Speakeasy, has hosted a basic cable comedy show in the past (Best Week Ever) and has developed multiple projects with Comedy Central, including Nightcap, a talk show pilot he did for the network a couple years ago. Tig Notaro hosted a late night pilot for Logo a couple years back called Tig Has Friends that sounds pretty unique and cool, and Billy Eichner, host of Fuse’s Billy on the Street, has expressed interest in hosting a talk show for TV, having gotten his start as the host of a live talk show in New York City.