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Three Obvious Comedians Who Should Be On The Short List To Succeed Trevor Noah On The Daily Show

"The Daily Show" has had just three hosts in its 26 years on the air, and the search will be on for a fourth after Trevor Noah announced he will be leaving the series to go back to stand-up comedy. Noah took over from Jon Stewart, whose sharp wit and willingness to challenge political figures of all stripes vaulted the show to the upper strata of late night. Under Stewart — who replaced Craig Kilborn after he made inappropriate remarks about series co-creator Lizz Winstead (via The New York Times) — "The Daily Show" exploded as a cultural powerhouse.

Stewart held the seat until 2015 when Noah took over. Noah has been gentler than Stewart in his approach and there was an initial adjustment period for viewers used to Stewart's style. However, Noah's intelligence and good-natured way of looking at the world's tragedies and foibles eventually won viewers over. With Noah's departure, though, Comedy Central is again faced with replacing the engineer on a moving train.

Network executives are also challenged with slowing or stopping the slide in ratings happening across the late-night schedule grid (via Forbes). They'll be looking for a combination of news savvy, relatability, and incisiveness that will keep faithful viewers watching. They could get all of those qualities and more by picking one of these candidates to take over "The Daily Show."

Samantha Bee taking over would see an iconic correspondent making a welcome return

Samantha Bee has the distinction of being one of the most recognizable "Daily Show" correspondents in the history of the program. She appeared on Jon Stewart's version of the show for 12 years before leaving to host "Full Frontal with Samantha Bee," which TBS axed in the summer of 2022. The timing works out perfectly for both sides, and her familiarity with the show would no doubt allow her to hit the ground running.

"Full Frontal" allowed Bee to freely display her biting wit and straight-to-the-heart manner, which is certainly more akin in tone to Stewart than to Trevor Noah. Bee would certainly be the nostalgic choice for many fans and would probably mean a shift from Noah's commentary-heavy program to one that leans more toward investigative journalism — and bringing her back makes logistical sense for both parties. But she told The Daily Beast's "The Last Laugh" podcast that she wasn't considered as a replacement for Stewart in 2015.

"They didn't ask me or talk to me about it. I mean, literally, no one called or even emailed from the network — at all," she said. Bee also explained, "I was never in contention and I very much knew that. I don't know that people in the outside world knew how much I was not being considered for the job." Seven years later, Comedy Central has a second chance to right that wrong, and Bee might be the safest and most logical choice to replace Noah.

Wyatt Cenac has the experience and the passion for the role

The well of former "Daily Show" correspondents who have gone on to host their own successful programs is deep. One such talented comedian is Wyatt Cenac, who had his show, "Problem Areas with Wyatt Cenac," canceled by HBO in 2019 after two seasons despite positive reviews. In a tweet from his since-deleted account, Cenac emphasized his show's goal of mobilizing people to political action.

"If somebody has never heard of restorative justice or a farm to school food program, they might not think something like that is possible," he wrote (via The Wrap). "We made a show to highlight that change can happen a lot closer than we sometimes realize. But it also needs support to grow and take root."

That inspirational grassroots focus could be a valuable place to steer the massive cultural force that "The Daily Show" has become, and Cenac, like Samantha Bee, would be a welcome choice for loyal viewers from the Jon Stewart era. At 46 he's still able to connect with younger viewers and is also familiar enough with older audiences to carry them along.

With regards to temperament and delivery, Cenac falls somewhere between Jon Stewart and Trevor Noah. He's softer and smoother than Stewart and slightly more caustic than Noah, and if his version of "The Daily Show" ever comes to be, it could be a longer and slower look at the news of the day than what we've seen so far.

Margaret Cho could take the series in an exciting new direction

Comedy Central's top brass won't be limited to former "Daily Show" correspondents in choosing a replacement for Trevor Noah. If they want versatility, perspective, and relatable charm all rolled into one, Margaret Cho stands out as a perfect choice. She has hosted or created a wide variety of programs, including a talk show, "All About Sex," and an autobiographical one-person stage show called "I'm the One That I Want" that became a film and book.

In his review of the film, SFGate's Edward Guthmann wrote, "It's hard to imagine anyone feeling wishy-washy about Margaret Cho ... Lewd, loud and aggressively honest, Cho approaches comedy like a dive bomber, storming her audience, saying out loud the things that nice young ladies are supposed to shut up about."

As our world becomes lewder, louder, and much more aggressively honest, Cho's voice may be exactly what "The Daily Show" needs to keep up. She'd be a bold choice and would almost definitely mean a major shift in tone for the series, but her advocacy for vulnerable people of all kinds would be in perfect sync with the program's history of highlighting their struggles and offering ways to help.

"The Daily Show" survived Jon Stewart's exit and remained one of the most valuable properties in late-night television under Trevor Noah. Its stewards at Comedy Central have a very big decision looming, but they landed on an excellent choice seven years ago and have a long list of great options this time around.