May 20, 2024

Comedy Central is going back to square one in its efforts to find a new host for “The Daily Show.”

The Paramount Global cable network is considering a wider array of candidates to take the reins of the program from previous emcee Trevor Noah, according to people familiar with the matter, after having previously identified Hasan Minhaj as a leading possibility. The decision appears to come in the wake of a recent report in The New Yorker in which some of the supposedly autobiographical stories that Minhaj has used in his routines were found to be embellished.

Comedy Central declined to comment, as did WME, the talent agency that represents Minhaj. Comedy Central has never confirmed that Minhaj was in line for the position, which was previously reported by Variety in August.

The “Daily Show” talent search comes as many of the nation’s big late-night TV talk shows are gearing up to get back to work. Like NBC’s “Tonight Show,” and “Late Night,” CBS’ “Late Show” and ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” Comedy Central’s “Daily Show” went dark in May due to the Hollywood writers strike. Now that the labor dispute has been settled, many of TV’s wee-hours programs are coming back on the air. HBO is expected to broadcast Bill Maher’s “Real Time” this Friday and John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight” on Sunday, with Jimmy Fallon, Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel and Seth Meyers returning to regular production on Monday.

But “Daily Show” faces distinct challenges. Since Noah’s exit in 2022, the show has not had a regular host and has been relying for an interim period on a series of guests. Minhaj has been one of a parade of “Daily Show” hopefuls, including comedians like Chelsea Handler, Leslie Jones, Al Franken, Kal Penn, Marlon Wayans and Sarah Silverman. The show’s cast of contributors, which include Roy Wood, Jr., Desi Lydic and Jordan Klepper, have also served as substitute hosts.

Minhaj remains in the mix of people being considered for the role, one of these people says, but executives at Paramount Global and Comedy Central are also poring over audience research tied to recent guests. The network could even test out a new group of guest hosts in weeks to come, one of these people says. But the hope is to have a new host to point to in time for the start of 2024 — well before the presidential election later that year.

Late-night talk shows have been part of the national routine for decades. But recent changes in the way people watch their favorite programs are shaking up the relationships the programs have with their audience. In 2018, seven late night programs — NBC’s “Tonight” and “Late Night,” CBS’ “Late Show” and “Late Late Show,” ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” Comedy Central’s “Daily Show” and NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” — drew more than $698 million in advertising in 2018, according to Vivvix, a tracker of ad spending. By 2022, that total came to $412.7 million — a drop of approximately 41% over five years.

The longer the programs stay off the air, the greater the risk that viewers will start new habits or discover other choices for midnight distraction..

CBS faces a similar late-night challenge. The network hopes to replace its “The Late Late Show,” most recently hosted by James Corden, with a revival of the Comedy Central late-night game show “@midnight.” But the writers strike — and one still going on led by actors — has slowed those plans. CBS executives are said to still be considering talent and examining audience research, according to one person familiar with the matter. This person thinks CBS would like to launch the new show by the start of 2024. A CBS spokesman declined to comment on plans for the new show.

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