Comedy Central execs don’t know who will replace Trevor Noah as anchor of The Daily Show following his December 8 departure, but they’ve lined up an all-star roster of well-known comics to keep the chair warm while they figure out what comes next, Vulture has learned. Among the bold-faced names who will start popping up behind the fake-news desk next month are several SNL alums (former U.S. senator Al Franken, Sarah Silverman, and, first up on January 17, Leslie Jones); two former late-night hosts (Chelsea Handler and Wanda Sykes); multiple sitcom and comedy-film vets (D.L. Hughley, John Leguizamo, Kal Penn, and Marlon Wayans); and one former Daily Show regular (Hasan Minhaj). And for anyone hoping to see Roy Wood Jr. or Dulcé Sloan guest host, fear not: Current correspondents and contributors are set to be part of the anchor rotation as well.
While The Daily Show has had guest hosts in the past, executive producer and showrunner Jen Flanz tells Vulture that, as far as she can remember, “This is the first time we’re really having outsiders into our house.” The nature of Noah’s relatively sudden departure is also unprecedented in the show’s history: It now faces its longest stretch ever without a permanent host. That’s because the next iteration of The Daily Show is unlikely to begin before September 2023, according to Chris McCarthy, who oversees Comedy Central in his role as president and CEO of Paramount Media Networks. “We’re going to use the back half of the broadcast year — call it from now until June — to really experiment and try different things,” he says. “And then our goal would be to relaunch in the fall.” The new host (or hosts) will very likely be announced well before then, allowing them time to prepare for the transition and to have a full year to settle in before the 2024 presidential election. But, in general, “We absolutely don’t feel a need to rush into a decision,” McCarthy stresses.
Indeed, while Comedy Central and Paramount execs have “general thoughts and a thesis” about what they want the post-Noah era to look like, McCarthy says they view the upcoming months of external and internal guest hosts as a chance to experiment. “This is an opportunity to test different models and formats,” he says. “And we’ll do that to give ourselves the time to plan over the next few months before we really begin to lock in on what the next chapter’s going to look like.” One thing Flanz makes clear is that the roster of well-known celebs who’ve already signed on for guest-anchoring gigs should not be seen as a list of candidates auditioning to be permanent host. “Anything is possible, but that’s not the goal, and it’s certainly not the intention,” she says. “I’m excited to see people that may not ever want to sit at the desk four nights a week for years but are interested in doing it for a week and hearing their point of view. And some of these people are people who probably have a lot of other things going on in their careers but are excited to take a week out and do The Daily Show for a week.”
While many — perhaps even most — of the guest anchors will fill in for a week at a time, some may simply pop up for one night only, particularly those with busy schedules or previous commitments, Flanz says. What’s more, today’s list of ten celebrity guests will grow in coming weeks. “There is a ton of talent that we’re still in conversations with,” McCarthy says. “And there’s a ton of the biggest and best of Comedy Central and The Daily Show alumni — including some previous hosts — that I wouldn’t be surprised if they came and surprised us.” When asked if he was referring to Jon Stewart or Craig Kilborn, McCarthy said to think “definitely more on the iconic side.” (This might also cover Stephen Colbert, whose Late Show airs on Comedy Central sibling network CBS.)
As for the current Daily Show staffers who’ve been mentioned as candidates for Noah’s chair, McCarthy said the upcoming months of guest-hosting turns will allow them a chance to show off their abilities and possibly play around with the format. “We’re incredibly lucky to have such an awesome bench of talent, each of whom I’ve connected with. And they’ve all expressed how important it is to them to be part of reinventing The Daily Show,” he says. “I think each one of them has ideas about how to evolve the show, what it might look like. And we want to give them the opportunity to test out those ideas … I think this is the best bench of correspondents that we’ve had in a long time, and we want to be in business with them for quite some time to come.”
In addition to not yet knowing who will take over as host, McCarthy and Flanz say they’ve yet to decide whether to stick with The Daily Show’s single-anchor format or evolve to something different such as co-anchors, similar to SNL’s most recent iterations of “Weekend Update,” or even multiple co-hosts, à la CBS Mornings and Good Morning America. “We’re wide open to really any number of ideas,” McCarthy says. “I think it has to be creatively driven, and it has to be talent first.” Flanz concurs, saying the idea of moving away from a solo anchor “is exciting” to her. “Some of my favorite pieces we’ve ever done on this show are when the correspondents interact with each other,” she says. “I think there’s something to be said for having a conversation rather than just one person telling you things.”
That said, both McCarthy and Flanz caution against reading too much into their openness to a different format. “Listen, one person has worked for us for a very long time,” says Flanz, who starts her 25th year with The Daily Show next month. “I just think there’s a lot of options. And the exciting thing about this time is that it’s blown the whole thing wide open again, and we can experiment.”
More important, according to McCarthy, is finding a way to make sure that whoever hosts The Daily Show moving forward is able to connect with audiences outside of the cable-TV ecosystem, much the way Noah has done. “We’re very mindful that the audience that watches us on linear is very different than the audience that watches us on social and streaming,” the exec says. “And this next generation is really most likely going to watch us on TikTok.” Still, he adds, “I’m less concerned about how they watch us and more concerned about making sure that we stay true to the brand … and continue to be at the peak of relevancy. We really want to make sure that we’re reinventing it — not just for the short term but for the long term.”
For McCarthy, overseeing the selection of Noah’s Daily Show successor is the latest addition to an increasingly long list of corporate responsibilities at Paramount Global. The exec has run most of the company’s cable brands for the past few years (including MTV, Comedy Central, and Paramount Network) and more recently took on a role as the chief content officer for Paramount+ in charge of unscripted and adult animation. In October, McCarthy was given oversight of Showtime Networks, putting him in charge of the pay-cable brand’s content and scheduling. And, perhaps most important to Paramount’s long-term bottom line, McCarthy is busy managing the expansion of the Taylor Sheridan universe, launching multiple spinoffs, prequels, and companion shows to Sheridan’s Yellowstone, whose recent fifth-season premiere was the most-watched episode of a linear TV series in 2022.