For a long time, SNL was clearly the biggest incubator of comedic talent in America, turning complete unknowns into movie stars and household names on a regular basis. But over the past seventeen years, The Daily Show has increasingly become close to its equal in the comedy world. For a comedic performer looking to make a name for themselves, becoming a correspondent for Jon Stewart is one of the most coveted jobs around, and for good reason. The show has had dozens of contributors and correspondents over the past couple decades - several of whom you know, but many who you don’t. Let’s take a look at every one of them and see just how impressive The Daily Show’s talent scouting and development has been.
To make this easier, let’s start at the beginning. The year is 1996, Craig Kilborn is hosting The Daily Show as the first anchor of America’s most trusted news source, and with him he had a helluva news team. First, let’s start with the original team…
Lizz Winstead. We would be remiss to list anyone but Lizz first, as she co-created the show along with Madeleine Smithberg, who served as talent coordinator for Letterman in the early 80s. Aside from being half the reason The Daily Show exists, Winstead also helped get The Man Show off the ground, appeared on Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn, and was also one of the co-creators of Air America Radio, in 2003.
Watch Lizz Winstead with Sarah Silverman doing a commentary sketch about Romney, as clips from The Daily Show were unavailable.
A. Whitney Brown. If this name sounds familiar, it’s because years earlier Brown was a writer and featured player on SNL, where he routinely lampooned the news opposite Dennis Miller on Weekend Update - so of course, he was a natural fit for The Daily Show’s first set of newsmen. As an entertainer, he also appeared on both Letterman and Carson. Since his Daily Show days, Brown has kept relatively out of the spotlight - aside from a stint contributing to Winstead’s Air America.
Here’s an old clip of A. Whitney Brown, talking religion and doing some stand up — clips from The Daily Show were once again unavailable.
Brian Unger. One of the more recognizable faces of TDS’s original roster, Unger’s passion for mocking the news has taken him far. After his run as one of the original correspondents, he went off to provide commentary on his own show on NPR for six years (as well as many subsequent regular appearances), on VH1’s “I Love The…” series, MSNBC’s Countdown With Keith Olbermann, The Discovery Channel’s Some Assembly Required, and on The History Channel’s How The States Got Their Shapes. And of course, many people will likely recognize Unger from his recurring role as The Lawyer, on FX’s “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia.”
Here is some of Brian Unger’s hard hitting journalism, about novelty teeth-maker Dr. Bukk.
David Wain and Michael Showalter. Only contributing correspondents one time apiece during the first season, this 2/3 of the comedy group Stella (sans Michael Ian Black) had freshly starred in the cult MTV sketch comedy hit, The State. Wain and Showalter would team up time and time again, cowriting 2001’s Wet Hot American Summer, 2005’s sketch series Stella, Adult Swim’s Childrens Hospital, and both having several appearances on pals from The State’s show, Reno 911!. In addition, Showalter hosted the CollegeHumor exclusive The Michael Showalter Showalter, and David Wain is responsible for writing and directing Role Models and Wanderlust.
Check out this classic Stella sketch with Wain, Showalter, and Michael Ian Black, as alas, their clip is locked away in a vault somewhere.
Beth Littleford. Beth is the longest serving original correspondent, having been on from 1996 to 2000 (Frank DeCaro, an original cast member, did serve longer but wasn’t a correspondent). In addition to her duties as correspondent, Beth has also served in the hosting chair, a claim to fame held by few others, namely John Oliver and Rob Corddry. Beth Littleford joins Brian Unger as one of the original correspondents to have subsequently served as a panelist on VH1’s “I Love The…” series, though her career far from ends there. On TV she has been recognizable as housewife Dana from ABC’s Desperate Housewives, and Sandra Berger in MTV’s The Hard Times of RJ Berger. Moreover, Beth has a prolific voiceover career, having lent her voice to cartoons Ben10, The Cleveland Show, and Family Guy.
Watch Beth interview Boy George for the show in 1999.
Caroline Rhea. Another recognizable face from the original news team is Caroline Rhea, who is credited as a correspondent only a single time. The year of TDS’s debut in 1996, she was a costar of a brand new show called Sabrina the Teenage Witch, as Aunt Hilda. The show was a huge success, and fans of talking puppet cats celebrated, as Caroline’s career as an actress and comedian gained traction quickly. Since then, she was one of the squares on the last iteration of Hollywood Squares, a regular on Sordid Lives: The Series, and is one of the main voices for hit cartoon show, Phineas and Ferb.
Check out this stand up clip of Caroline at a benefit at the Second City Theater in Canada, as her episode is sadly unavailable.
Susie Essman. Yes, that’s right. Susie Essman was at one time a Daily Show correspondent. Unfortunately for us, like Caroline Rhea, she is only credited as literally a ONE time correspondent. You know her as the ineffable and furious Susie Greene, wife of Jeff Garlin’s Jeff Greene on Curb Your Enthusiasm. In addition, she provided the voice of Mittens in 2008’s 3D animated film, Bolt, and has even co-hosted The View a couple times.
Here’s a great clip of Susie’s trials and tribulations with Larry David on Curb Your Enthusiasm, in lieu of her unfindable correspondent segment.
Jeffrey Ross. This may come as a surprise to some comedy fans, but long ago, Jeff Ross was a correspondent for the first two years of TDS’s existence. Since then, as we all know, Jeff’s name has come to be accompanied by the moniker, “Roastmaster General,” and has served as a roaster for the past eleven televised celebrity roasts from Comedy Central. In addition to his work in comedy, Jeff was also on season seven of Dancing With The Stars, though he was eliminated in the very first episode. Jeff has co-hosted Jimmy Kimmel: Live! and currently hosts his own show, The Burn With Jeff Ross, on Comedy Central, which has run for two seasons.
Watch Jeff Ross roast Donald Trump for Comedy Central.
Stephen Colbert. We all know this one, I shouldn’t even have to do this. But here we go: Stephen Colbert joined the show in 1997, before Jon Stewart was the host, and until 2012 was the longest serving correspondent in show history, with a whopping almost nine years before leaving in 2005 to create the Colbert Report, a show that interacts so heavily with TDS, it’s almost impossible to watch one and not the other. Something you may not know, however, is that aside from being a titan in the world of news-mockery, Colbert was the voice of Ace of The Ambiguosly Gay Duo with fellow correspondent Steve Carrell, has been on Whose Line Is It Anyway a couple times, and has also lent his vocal talents to recurring characters in Adult Swim’s Harvey Birdman: Attorney At Law and The Venture Bros.
Here’s a montage of Stephen’s best from The Daily Show’s “We Were Correspondents” series.
Mo Rocca. First of all, yes, Maurice Rocca is his legal birth name. One of the most beloved early correspondents for the show, Mo Rocca got his first start in TV working as a writer/producer for the TV series Wishbone. Following his time on TDS, Mo continued regularly reporting the news as a contributing correspondent for Larry King Live, The Tonight Show on NBC as well as 2000’s election coverage, and CBS Sunday Morning, as well as regularly appearing as a panelist on NPR’s Wait wait… Don’t tell me! Additionally, Rocca has won an Emmy for his work in writing the 64th Annual Tony Awards.
Check out Mo’s coverage of California’s 2003 Syphilis scare.
Stacey Grenrock-Woods. Stacey was on TDS for a solid five years as a contributing correspondent, and was one of the few correspondents to start their tenure during Craig Kilborn’s term as host and to end it in Jon Stewart’s. She is one of several former correspondents to be featured on Arrested Development (a credit she shares with Ed Helms, Rob Riggle, Lauren Weedman, and Rob Corddry), and has also appeared on MSNBC’s Countdown With Keith Olbermann. She is one of two correspondents to do a modeling shoot for Playboy - the other is Olivia Munn - and currently she writes as a sex columnist for Esquire.
Here’s a clip of Stacey reporting on a Santa Cruz city council trying to get President Bush Impeached.
Denny Siegel. A correspondent for only a year, chances are, if you recognize Siegel, it’s from her many appearances on ABC’s Whose Line Is It Anyway? Sadly, she and Stephen Colbert didn’t cross paths on any episodes. In the past couple years, she also had appearances on House and Curb Your Enthusiasm.
Watch this clip of Denny reporting on a missing Wallaby.
Steve Carell. Almost certainly the most famous Daily Show alum (whose only possible competition for that title would be his fake correspondent rival, Colbert), Carrell’s comedy roots go back to his time at the Second City troupe in Chicago — where Colbert often served as his understudy. Certainly one of the most popular TDS correspondents, he began the show as Jon Stewart replaced Craig Kilborn, and he left the show to pursue his role as Michael Scott in the smash hit NBC adaptation of The Office. He is also a prolific film actor, with his breakout role as Evan Baxter in 2003’s Bruce Almighty, several films with Judd Apatow including Anchorman, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, and a cameo in Knocked Up, Jay Roach’s Dinner For Schmucks, and received a huge amount of praise for his roles in Little Miss Sunshine and Crazy, Stupid, Love. He has also provided voice work for the Despicable Me franchise, Horton Hears A Who!, and Over The Hedge.
Here’s a montage of Steve’s best, from The Daily Show’s, “We Were Correspondents” series.
Nancy Walls. Starting at the same time as Carell, Nancy Walls met Steve at Second City in Chicago where he was teaching a class. Not long after, she had a brief stint on SNL as a performer, and she and Steve got married; making them one only two married couples to be correspondents on TDS (along with Samantha Bee and Jason Jones). They are not, however, the only correspondents to be related, thanks to Corddry brothers Rob and Nate. Post-Daily Show, she had a recurring role as Carell’s love interest Carol on The Office, and has also appeared in his films The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World. She has also lent her voice to Mike Judge cartoon, The Goode Family.
Watch Nancy Walls report on important dates to keep in mind for the month of December.
Vance DeGeneres. “DeGeneres like Ellen?” Yes, actually. Older brother Vance, a former Marine Corporal, played in a succession of rock bands, including The Cold and Cowboy Mouth, after finishing his term with the military. He also provided the hands in the popular Mr. Bill shorts shown on SNL. After his tenure with The Daily Show, he has since done a lot of work co-running Steve Carell’s company, Carousel Productions, for Warner Brothers. He appears in Carell’s film, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, and has been on his sis Ellen’s show several times.
Here’s Vance reporting on inveterate presidential hopeful, Charles Doty.
Miriam Tolan. Serving a short 14 episode run on The Daily Show over the course of a year, Tolan’s oeuvre is that of a character actress, and has been featured doing sketches and bit parts on Upright Citizens Brigade, Human Giant, The Office, 30 Rock, Delocated, The Dictator, Childrens Hospital (with TDS alum Rob Corddry), Nick Swardson’s Pretend Time, and has been in many sketches for Late Night With Jimmy Fallon.
Check out Miriam Tolan talking about identity confusion in cats.
Lauren Weedman. Starting in 2001, Lauren Weedman served only about a year, but has continued the trend of humor journalism since, appearing on several of VH1’s “I Love The…” franchise, as well as having a stint as a Best Week Ever panelist. She has appeared on Arrested Development and New Girl and was also a series regular on Showtime’s gigolo comedy, Hung.
Watch Lauren Weedman talk about the realities of Sex And The City.
Matt Walsh. Walsh is something of a comedy legend, thanks to being a founder of the Upright Citizens Brigade sketch troupe which spawned a TV show, gave the world Amy Poehler, and three fantastic comedy venues between NY and LA. In many ways, his one-year stint as a Daily Show correspondent is just a footnote on his impressive comedy career. He has made an impressive career out of many bit parts in countless TV shows and films. He’s appeared on Reno 911!, Human Giant, Late Night With Conan O’Brien, Role Models, Semi-Pro, Ted, and genuinely way more than I could count here. He also bears the distinction of having been in every single Todd Phillips movie, except The Hangover Part II. He currently costars as Mike McClintock on HBO’s Veep.
Check out Matt Walsh reporting on the proposal to dump nuclear waste in Nevada.
Mary Birdsong. Birdsong was only briefly a contributing correspondent in 2002, but her resume is definitely an impressive one. She started out doing theater and as a singer in the country band Cottonhead. Her career, other than a role she had as a voiceover for Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, only took off once she left The Daily Show. She briefly transitioned to a correspondent on the short-lived debate show, Crossballs, and did a couple stints as characters on Adult Swim cartoons Stroker & Hoop and Harvey Birdman: Attorney At Law (with Stephen Colbert). Following that, she became a series regular on Comedy Central’s Reno 911!, where she received praise for her comedic chops as Dep. Cherisha Kimball. A breakout film role for her came recently, with Alexander Payne’s The Descendents, in which she plays supporting role Kai Mitchell, opposite Rob Heubel.
Here is Mary navigating the negotiations between birdwatchers and model plane enthusiasts.
Rob Corddry. Another alumnus of the Upright Citizens Brigade, Corddry was an early ‘00s fixture for The Daily Show, with his caustic, often aggressive correspondent work. Moreover, he is one of the few correspondents to have been trusted with the host’s desk, while Jon Stewart welcomed his second child in 2006. One of the many TDS cast to appear on Arrested Development, he has had quite the career, bringing big laughs in film/TV such as Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay, W., Hot Tub Time Machine, Warm Bodies, Childrens’ Hospital, and Community.
Here’s a montage of Rob’s best, from The Daily Show’s “We Were Correspondents” series.
Ed Helms. Another major movie star to come from TDS, before the show he was working as a stand up and sketch comic, and he got the correspondent gig from an open call audition. He served as a correspondent through 2006, and after leaving, continued to occasionally stop by and serve as his correspondent character for a number of years. On his last season with the show, Helms was cast as minor character Andy Bernard on NBC’s The Office, who, after Helms left his correspondent post, became a main cast member. Helms’ breakout role is almost certainly that of Stuart Price, in Todd Phillips’ The Hangover trilogy. He’s also had starring roles in Cedar Rapids, Jeff, Who Lives At Home, We’re The Millers, and as voice of The Once-ler in The Lorax.
And here’s a montage of Ed’s best, from The Daily Show’s “We Were Correspondents” series.
Rachael Harris. Harris, with a one-year stint as a Correspondent from 2002-2003, started out in LA sketch group The Groundlings. She has played small character roles in an enormous list of films, from Christopher Guest’s mockumentaries, Best In Show, A Mighty Wind, and For Your Consideration, to her role opposite TDS correspondent Ed Helms as his girlfriend in The Hangover. She’s also done an extensive amount of television, starting with Star Trek: Voyager, but also appearing in Cougar Town, Modern Family, Reno 911!, The West Wing, Monk, Suits, Desperate Housewives, and many more.
Watch Rachael Harris on the lowering statistics of risky behavior in teens.
Bob Wiltfong. Bob Wiltfong marks the very first professional newscaster turned satirical newscaster in Daily Show history. Serving for just over a year, Bob’s passion for comedy and ease on camera has led him to reprise the role of presenter or newscaster from Chappelle’s Show to Late Night with Conan O’Brien to It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia to his current role as the Nationwide Insurance spokesman.
Here’s Bob reporting on a proposed high school cheerleading ban.
Dan Bakkedahl. In 2005, Stephen Colbert left The Daily Show, a replacement was hired in the form of Dan Bakkedahl. Dan would serve over two years as a correspondent, before landing some major supporting roles in major shows and films, such as The Office, Community, 30 Rock, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Veep, The Heat, Observe And Report, and This Is 40. Right now, he is costarring in FX comedy Legit, as Steve Nugent, best friend and roommate of star Jim Jeffries.
Check out Dan Bakkedahl on Canada’s immigration concerns.
Nate Corddry. The other new correspondent of ‘05, Nate joined older brother and castmate Rob Corddry for the better part of a year. As brothers on the show, Rob would often comically antagonize Nate during his segments. Since the show, Nate has had a huge TV career, and appeared as a regular on Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip, The United States Of Tara, Harry’s Law, Children’s Hospital (again with older brother Rob), the voice of Zed on Tron: Uprising, and now is on new CBS sitcom, Mom.
Watch Nate Corddry battle Big Brother and his actual big brother Rob on The Daily Show.
Rob Riggle. Another one hugely recognizable face from TDS came in 2006 with Rob Riggle, hired to replace the departing Rob Corddry. Coming from SNL, and like Vance DeGeneres years earlier, a former Marine officer, Riggle also served as a member of sketch group Human Giant with Rob Heubel, Aziz Ansari, and occasionally TDS’s Miriam Tolan and Matt Walsh. As an actor he is likely best known for his ubiquitous bit parts in countless comedy blockbusters, from The Hangover (with TDS pal Helms), Step Brothers, The Other Guys, 21 Jump Street, a voice in The Lorax (once again with Helms), and plenty more. Riggle appears as a regular on Wilfred and Adult Swim’s parody counterterrorism drama NTSF:SD:SUV::.
Here’s Rob Riggle’s exclusive video profile from The Daily Show’s website.
Wyatt Cenac. A former writer for King Of The Hill, Cenac was passed over on Saturday Night Live - where he had interned in college - just before getting his break on The Daily Show. Having only left the show last year, Cenac has been focusing on his career in standup comedy, appearing on TDS castmate John Oliver’s New York Stand-Up Show on Comedy Central, as well as Totally Biased With W. Kamau Bell, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and on his standup special, entitled Comedy Person. He currently does voices on Nickelodeon cartoon Fanboy and Chum Chum.
Here’s a montage of Wyatt’s best, from The Daily Show’s “We Were Correspondents” series.
Josh Gad. Josh Gad joined The Daily Show in 2009, where he served as a correspondent until leaving to star as Elder Cunningham in the Broadway smash hit, The Book Of Mormon, in 2011, for which he was nominated for a Tony. Following that, he voiced characters in both Ice Age: Continental Drift and MTV cartoon, Good Vibes, before co-creating and starring in NBC presidential sitcom, 1600 Penn. He has just recently costarring in Steve Jobs biopic Jobs, where he plays Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak.
Check out Josh reporting on the legalization of same-sex marriage in NY.
Olivia Munn. The final former correspondent, Olivia Munn, was on for only a season, from 2010-11. After a little bit of sports presenting and as a cast member of teen surfing drama Beyond The Break on TeenNick, Munn gained the spotlight in 2006 when she began to co-host popular G4 program, Attack Of The Show, where she stayed for four years until leaving to serve as a TDS correspondent and costar in brief NBC show, Perfect Couples. After her work on The Daily Show ended (and Perfect Couples was cancelled), Munn appeared in Steven Soderbergh’s Magic Mike, guest starred on Fox’s New Girl, and now is a series regular on HBO’s The Newsroom.
Watch Olivia Munn report on her experience with ‘tiger mom’ parenting.
Aside from these former correspondents, The Daily Show has played host to dozens of contributors over the years, and while going through all of them would take even longer, some standout members of this impressive roster are definitely worth mentioning: comic and Insomniac star Dave Attell; creator of Adult Swim’s Delocated Jon Glaser; comedian and Important Things on Comedy Central star, Demitri Martin; hilarious film reviewer, Frank DeCaro; humorist and TV presenter, Paul F. Tompkins; and even once, acclaimed film actor Patrick Stewart.
The Daily Show’s current roster of correspondents and contributors are Samantha Bee, Jason Jones, John Oliver, Aasif Mandvi, Al Madrigal, Jessica Williams, Larry Wilmore, Kristen Schaal, John Hodgman, and — serving as a contributor since the very first year, 1996 — Lewis Black.
Sam runs The Lemonade Stand variety show at The Stand. See him in the Coen brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis on December 3rd. He currently resides in New York City with his pet insecurities named Poverty and Failure.