On January 11, 1999, Jon Stewart took over Comedy Central's The Daily Show, starting a 16 year run of incisive, hilarious, and absolutely necessary news commentary that would garner 23 Emmy Awards and three Peabody Awards. This is the opening of his very first show which, coincidentally enough, includes coverage of an impending presidential impeachment trial.
Co-created by Lizz Winstead and Madeleine Smithberg in 1995 as a nightly show that commented on the news events of the day, The Daily Show was initially hosted by former ESPN personality Craig Kilborn and had a bit more of a pop culture focus, much to Winstead's chagrin. She hadn't chosen him for the job, and his caustic personality caused a lot of behind the scenes friction that became public when he made a crude joke about her in Esquire Magazine, which got him suspended for a week in 1997. Winstead quit the show shortly afterward, but her influence did not entirely dissipate.
When Kilborn was tapped to move to CBS to do The Late Late Show, replacing Tom Snyder in the post-Late Show with David Letterman time slot, his Daily Show job was filled by Stewart, whose short-lived 1993 MTV talk show, The Jon Stewart Show, had been produced by Winstead. Stewart was much more in line with Winstead's concept of the show as being newsy and content-driven rather than host-driven — which was a kinder way to say Kilborn thought it was all about him.
Stewart's stable of "fake news" reporters — back when the term meant "satirical news" — included Stephen Colbert, who had come to the show in 1997 during Kilborn's tenure. He would famously become Stewart's go-to guy as a pompous reporter version of himself that eventually morphed into the full-on right-wing pundit host of The Colbert Report, which began airing after TDS in 2005, creating an hour-long block of essential news satire for those who felt the George W. Bush administration was as bad as a presidency could possibly get.
Stewart's Daily Show became a launchpad for a generation of comic heavyweights, including Steve Carell, who started as a correspondent a month after Stewart took the reins and stayed until 2005, when Anchorman, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, and The Office launched him into A-list star status. Other notables include Rob Corddry, Ed Helms, Samantha Bee, Rob Riggle, Olivia Munn, Hasan Minhaj, and of course, John Oliver, who parlayed a successful interim Daily Show host gig in 2013 into HBO's Last Week Tonight.
Trevor Noah took over for Stewart in 2015 and remains host to this day, while Stewart has directed films, remained active with charity work, occasionally lambastes Congress for not properly taking care of 9/11 first responders, and is set to return to television with a new Apple TV+ series.
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Andy Hunsaker has a head full of sitcom gags and nerd-genre lore, and can be followed @AndyHunsaker if you're into that sort of thing.