Jon Stewart ends his seventeen-year run at The Daily Show tonight. His legacy lives on, not just within the context of the show, but in the countless stars that Stewart has helped launch. The correspondents are an invaluable part of the show that became the defining late-night show of the generation. Other than maybe Lorne Michaels, no one person and show has generated as many comedy stars as Stewart and The Daily Show. Here are fifteen of the best Daily Show correspondents.
Riggle, a retired U.S. Marine Corps officer, brought that military energy to The Daily Show. He is an overpowering, scene-stealing personality, which has extended to his film career. On the show, Riggle’s strengths as a performer were immediately visible. He filed a profile of himself while covering the Beijing Olympics and took on hippies under-cover.
Kristen Schaal has showcased her unique charm as the Senior Women’s Correspondent for years. As a contributor, she’ll only make occasional appearances, but the ones she does, she kills it. Her chemistry with Jon is unmistakeable, as she gives her hilarious take on issues like “Dad Bods” and “Cougars”.
“Deranged Billionaire” John Hodgman was the first correspondent to originally appear as a guest, where he promoted one of his best-selling books. Hodgman, a brilliant writer, quickly became an asset to the show. Hodgman’s recurring segment “You’re Welcome” was a highlight, where he would helpfully solve the world’s problems in just a few minutes.
Wilmore was so effective as the Senior Black Correspondent. He gave the show an experienced comedy voice to give their take on Obama’s presidency and its impact on black Americans, the attempt to keep minorities off the voting roles, people who claim to know what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would have wanted, and the shooting of Trayvon Martin. Wilmore tackled all of these issues with hilarious, dry wit. Stewart had such trust in Wilmore that he hand-picked him to take over Stephen Colbert’s time-slot and host “The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore.”
Years before he was a major movie star, Ed Helms was a supporting player on The Best F#@king News Team Ever. He had a major role in covering the presidential election, “Indecision 2004,” which is always a time when the show heightens in influence. Helms also worked for the show at a time when they did more field pieces than they’ve done in later years. He was also fearless: How many correspondents would attach a camera to their balls?
In his four and a half years, Wyatt became a huge part of the show. He worked as the only black writer during his run, winning Emmys with the staff for his work. As a correspondent, Wyatt’s dry, subtle humor contrasted well with the louder, more bombastic types that were generally in the correspondent’s seat. Wyatt was also able to work off Stewart and other correspondents so effectively. He also killed it as the voice of Puppet Michael Steele.
Corddry played a fun-loving idiot for four years on The Daily Show. Corddry’s character was beautifully ignorant and unbelievably smug. He went to the field and was one of the best at prodding interviewees into saying shit that they’d end up regretting. When Corddry left the show, he closed with a shit joke, because, as he told Stewart, he “had to stay true” to his craft. Since the show, Corddry has found huge success with the hilarious series, Childrens Hospital.
Mandvi’s role as a Senior Muslim Correspondent and Senior Middle East Correspondent was invaluable to the show. He covered foreign issues and domestic. He had great rapport with Stewart and squared off with Wyatt Cenac in a religion debate to end all debates: “Team Muhammad” vs. “Team Jesus.”
One of the best at the field pieces, Jason Jones killed it at the show for a decade. He knew how to push buttons in-studio and in the field. He made people mad, exposing hypocrisy, including a famous segment where he challenged the fans that want to maintain the Washington Redskins name. Jones also traveled to Iran, where he examined the differences (or similiarites) between our cultures. He also interviewed journalist Maziar Bahari in a piece that Iranian officials would misunderstand and, eventually, became a piece of evidence that they attempted to use against Bahari.
Jessica Williams is only 26 years old, but has become the favorite current correspondent on The Best F#@king News Team Ever. In her three years on the show, she has established herself as a Senior Correspondent, hitting everything from Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law to inter-political dating to dressing as Abraham Lincoln. When Stewart announced he was retiring, there was an active Twitter campaign for Comedy Central to name Williams as the next host. Williams tweeted that she was not ready to steer the show, but her future is bright. Fans rejoiced when it was announced that Williams would stay with the show when Trevor Noah takes over next month.
Lewis Black is nationally known as one of the great stand-up comedians and he has brought his pointed rage and hilarious fury to every “Back In Black” segment of The Daily Show. AC/DC’s “Back In Black” plays as Stewart says, “When a news story falls through the cracks, our own Lewis Black catches it.” In a sign of trust, Stewart does not engage in back-and-forth with Black where he plays the straight-man, as he does with most correspondents. Instead, he gives Black the floor to rant on the topic himself.
Steve Carell killed it on The Daily Show, with his recurring segments of “Produce Pete” and “Even Stevphen,” where he and Stephen Colbert squared off in blunt, hilarious debates. Carell stayed with the show while he landed some film roles, before leaving to become an established star in his own right. Carell was the first Daily Show correspondent to become a major star, starring in NBC’s The Office and The 40-Year-Old Virgin.
Samantha Bee had the longest-tenure of any Daily Show correspondent. Bee’s contributions from field pieces to in-studio segments was massive. She had some of the funniest segments during Sarah Palin’s time in the spotlight at John McCain’s VP candidate and had an epic segment on the Valerie Plame controversy. Bee left the show earlier this year to star in her own show on TBS — an offer that was long overdue.
John Oliver entered The Daily Show at a transitional time, when longtime correspondents Stephen Colbert, Rob Corddry, and Ed Helms had left the show. Oliver quickly became a fan-favorite as the Senior British Correspondent, bringing a new, accented voice to the show. He also rapidly assumed Senior Correspondent duties, as well as winning several Emmys for his work on the writing staff.
When Stewart took a hiatus for a few months in 2013 to direct the film Rosewater, Oliver was tapped to fill in as host. He covered the Anthony Weiner-Carlos Danger scandal with glee and did such a strong job that it showed that The Daily Show could operate without Jon Stewart — and Jon Oliver could operate in the host chair. Shortly after, HBO gave Oliver his own weekly show, Last Week Tonight.
Stephen Colbert is the greatest Daily Show correspondent in the show’s history. He had the fake news anchor swagger, the confident willful ignorance that all future correspondents emulated. He did segments like “This Week In God” so effectively that The Daily Show just retired the bits after he left the show. Others who have worked on The Daily Showhave said that Colbert was a model for how they approached their correspondent work. Aasif Mandvi said that when he auditioned, his approach was just to “do my best Stephen Colbert impression.”
Colbert was so successful in this role that he and Jon Stewart brought that character to The Colbert Report, which ran for nine successful years. Together, Colbert played this correspondent character for seventeen years. Fittingly, in the final episode of The Colbert Report, Colbert closed by turning it back to Jon Stewart, returning the character to the host and show that launched him to success.