Comedy Central has a problem. It needs to find a replacement for departing Daily Show host Jon Stewart. Though Stewart was The Daily Show's second host, he remade the show in his own image, sharpening its focus on the insanity that is the national news media and American politics. The Daily Show without Jon Stewart feels almost unimaginable.
So, honestly, Comedy Central might be tempted to just give up right about now. But they shouldn't fear. We have 11 great suggestions — and we've even ranked them in order of preference. We've even gone out of our way to pick people who are at least somewhat realistic. There's nobody wrapped up in a long-term contract on some other talk show here. Your move, Comedy Central.
1) Jessica Williams
Honestly, Comedy Central, just give the job to Jessica Williams. She is by far the best candidate, and she can probably be hired without the proverbial dump truck of money.
Williams already works on Daily Show, so she knows the lay of the land. She's got that rare mix of raw humanity and faux gravitas that Stewart perfected. And she's an expert with a quick quip.
Possible drawback: Will she be the kind of interviewer the job requires? Our guess is yes, but she's largely unproven in this skillset, given how staged interviews during the show's "news" segments are.
2) W. Kamau Bell
When Stewart was hired, his chief claim to fame was a failed talk show that critics had loved, but audiences had ignored. And the person in the media food chain that best describes now is W. Kamau Bell, who was briefly the host of FX and later FXX's Totally Biased. Bell's show was often tremendously insightful, and some of its innovations were grabbed by other programs, like John Oliver's HBO show.
Possible drawback: In the FXX days, Bell seemed a bit worn out by having to do a daily show. (The FX version was weekly.) Would that be the same at Comedy Central?
3) Amy Poehler
I'm actually somewhat skeptical of this choice, but she was by far the most-mentioned name among other Vox staffers. And who am I to argue? Poehler is certainly funny, she has experience with this sort of thing from her years on Saturday Night Live, and now that Parks and Recreation is over, she'll be looking for a job. If Comedy Central could somehow convince her to do it, she'd carry ready-made media buzz with her as well.
Possible drawbacks: Can Comedy Central possibly pay her enough to convince her to put a burgeoning movie career on hold to take this highly demanding job?
4) Tig Notaro
Notaro's definitely a wild card here. Her long, beautiful standup sets often allow for lengthy rambles on particular topics that wouldn't necessarily suggest her as a slinger of late-night zingers. But Notaro is also wonderfully laconic and personable, two qualities that have traditionally worked well in the late-night game. She'd be a gamble, but one worth taking.
Possible drawbacks: Comedy Central will almost certainly want a known quantity — to some degree — in this role. Is Notaro going to be well enough known to Daily Show fans?
5) Baratunde Thurston
Thurston's work on Pivot's Take Part Live has been an unexpected lightning bolt of socially conscious hilarity. And if that doesn't sound like a potential new host for The Daily Show, then nothing will.
Possible drawbacks: We're definitely in the, "Do enough people know who this is?" part of the list, as the same questions about Notaro apply to Thurston.
6) Cameron Esposito
If both Notaro and Thurston lack name recognition, at least late-night fans might have heard of them or recognize their faces from other shows. The same can't quite be said for Esposito, a comedian who is only just now starting to break through. But watch any of her stand-up sets and tell me she wouldn't be a great late-night host.
Possible drawbacks: She's decidedly the Conan O'Brien of this list, in that she would have to be taught essentially everything about how hosting late-night television works. That's a steep learning curve.
7) Aisha Tyler
Tyler comes up every time there's a list like this, and for good reason — she's quick-witted, gregarious, and great with any random celebrity she might be happening to interview. Weirdly, Tyler's been an "almost" host for so long that it sort of feels like she's hosted a late-night show for decades, even though she hasn't.
Possible drawbacks: Is she as interested in political and social commentary as The Daily Show's audience is?
8) Tina Fey
Nobody is going to convince Tina Fey to do this. She's not going to leave her sweet new Netflix gig to work the punishing hours of late-night TV again. But wouldn't it be great if she did?
Possible drawbacks: That she is almost certainly not going to do this.
9) Chris Rock
Here is another big name who won't take this job for tens of millions of dollars. But Rock clearly has a passion for political discussion, and he's actually got some experience with hosting a TV show from his HBO days. Sadly, we're guessing Comedy Central won't be able to give him solid-gold pantaloons or whatever he might require to take the job.
Possible drawbacks: A dirty secret of late-night is that networks want someone in their 30s or early 40s, all the better to capitalize on roughly 15 to 20 years of that person's life. Chris Rock just turned 50.
10) Donald Glover
Glover has a deal with FX Networks to produce and star in a pilot, but you have to imagine he would at least consider this possibility. Probably still best known for his work on Community, Glover has proved preternaturally gifted at basically everything he's attempted in show business. Why shouldn't talk show host be on that list as well?
Possible drawbacks: Okay, we don't know if he's any good at interviewing. Or interested in political topics. But can't you imagine that he might be?
11) Paul F. Tompkins
The time for white guys being the default choices of late-night talk shows should be at an end, even if it's not. Comedy Central made a promising choice in following up Stephen Colbert's run with Larry Wilmore, and it should follow up Daily Show with any of the non-white guy applicants above (or somebody else — you know best, Comedy Central!). But if the network insists on picking a white dude, why not Tompkins? He's one of the funniest people alive, and his show would at least be really, really weird. Would anybody want to watch it? Maybe not, but it would be fun to watch him burn television to the ground.
Possible drawbacks: Comedy Central is perhaps less keen on television being burned to the ground than we are.