LOS ANGELES (AP) – Comedy Central is mulling a “short list” of replacements for “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart, a decision that could affect how much influence the show has on the 2016 presidential campaign.
Also at issue: Whether Stewart, an executive producer for “Daily Show” as well as host, retains some role with the show that has helped shape attitudes toward politics and media and given campaigns an appealing forum to reach potential voters, especially younger ones.
“TBD,” said Doug Herzog, president of Viacom Entertainment Group, using the shorthand for “to be determined,” when asked if Stewart would keep a hand in.
“It’s not out of the question,” Herzog added.
Stewart, 52, announced Tuesday that he will leave the host’s job this year, a move that had been was closely held by him and the channel. The timing of his exit has yet to be determined, and Stewart did not say what he plans to do afterward.
“I think Jon wanted to get this off his chest and put it out there. He’s been carrying this for a little while, and now we’ll have to discuss” the next steps, Herzog said. “He’ll take a deep breath, as will we, and figure out what’s best for Jon Stewart and best for ‘The Daily Show,’ in that order.”
He declined to comment on when Stewart, whose contract is up this fall told Comedy Central of his decision to leave.
Herzog said “there’s a short list” of possible Stewart replacements, declining to provide specifics. It’s uncertain whether it includes former “Daily Show” correspondent John Oliver, who moved to HBO after successfully filling in for Stewart when he took a movie-making break.
Asked about whether Oliver is a candidate, Herzog’s reply was succinct.
“John Oliver’s got a job,” he said.
Asked if that meant he was not under consideration, Herzog said: “I think he’s spoken for.”
Whoever is chosen has heavy lifting to do.
“It’s almost impossible to estimate the impact that Jon Stewart has had on correcting misinformation in the media and calling out our politicians when they need to be called out,” said Sophia McClennen, a Penn State professor and author of “Is Satire Saving Our Nation?: Mockery and American Politics.”
And that was felt in the halls of power.
Stewart had a “very special talent for putting fear in everybody from the candidate to the operative to the intern, should they do something wrong, say something wrong. You knew it might be immortalized on ‘The Daily Show,'” said Kevin Madden, who was a campaign adviser for Mitt Romney in 2008 and 2012.
Even former President Bill Clinton felt compelled to weigh in, although lightheartedly.
“Jon Stewart’s departure raises 2 Qs: 1) Where will I get my news each night? 2) Does this mean he’s doing a sequel to Death to Smoochy?” Clinton posted on Twitter, including a reference to a 2002 comedy in which Stewart appeared.
Candidates may still count on a post-Stewart “Daily Show” appearance, hoping to reach its young adult viewers and the potential votes they represent, said Rich Galen, a Republican consultant who worked on former Sen. Fred Thompson’s presidential campaign.
That could become a closed avenue, depending on what changes come to the show.
“But it won’t alter anyone’s campaign plans. It does take away one option that everybody had,” Galen said.
That doesn’t mean the show’s satiric viewpoint will be lost to TV or absent from the 2016 presidential election, others said.
“John Oliver has done incredible job on his (HBO) show, digging even deeper into issues” than Stewart has time to do on his show,” said Jon Favreau, a former speechwriter for President Barack Obama. Wilmore is also effective, and Stephen Colbert undoubtedly will continue to satirize politics and media’s coverage of it when he starts in late-night on CBS, he said.
When it comes to satire, Favreau said, “there’s a demand for it out there.”
GOP adviser Madden agreed.
“News satire will live on, largely because Stewart created an incredible market for it. In that sense, there will be a lot of folks trying to occupy the very big shadow he’s cast over the genre,” he said.
Herzog expressed measured optimism that “The Daily Show” and its “Indecision” campaign watch — a part of Comedy Central well before Stewart joined — will remain factors in the presidential election next year.
“Why not? But who knows. Jon carved out a very particular place for himself within that dialogue. We’ll see what the next person brings,” he said. “It’s going to happen in a different way, in a different fashion, from a different point of view. But I’m pretty certain it’s going to happen.”
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