Jon Stewart is leaving The Daily Show, and Comedy Central is presumably looking for a replacement. This is a no-brainer: it should be a woman.
In the past two years, there’s been so much turnover in late-night television: Jimmy Fallon, Seth Meyers, John Oliver, Stephen Colbert, James Corden and Larry Wilmore have all taken over old shows, or started new ones. A reader needn’t be particularly astute to notice that none of these people are women. There are, in fact, no women on late-night television at all. (Chelsea Handler was reportedly in talks to take the CBS Late Show spot, but ultimately wasn’t chosen. She has an upcoming late-night-style show on Netflix, but it hasn’t aired yet — and technically, it can’t really qualify as a late-night show in the traditional sense, since it’s on a streaming service.)
If there is any network that should “take a risk” on a female host, it should be Comedy Central. (Yes, it’s ridiculous that a woman hosting her own show is a “risk” in 2015.) The channel has done tremendous work to bolster the platforms of female comics in the past couple of years, adding shows like Inside Amy Schumer and Broad City—which was created by and stars Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson—to its traditionally male-dominated lineup.
Ratings have proven that viewers, including men, will tune in to watch these funny ladies. Inside Amy Schumer was the most watched series premiere for the channel in 2013, drawing a 50/50 male-female demographic despite tackling topics like objectification, discrimination and gender politics with a distinctly feminist tone. (Comedy Central’s audience is about 60% male overall.) Meanwhile, Broad City has earned critical acclaim and averaged 1.3 million viewers per episode in its first season. Compare that to FX’s Louie, which pulls in just over 1 million viewers per episode — despite being in its fourth season with a much better-known comedian at the helm.
The Daily Show has long been the core of Comedy Central’s lineup, and without it, the network will depend on these female-led shows to buoy their viewership. Given that, choosing a female host for this empty slot isn’t a matter of affirmative action — it’s just smart business.
That’s the dollars and cents argument. Now, for the idealistic one.
Comedy Central — and The Daily Show specifically — has long been an incubator for talent. It’s lovingly groomed Stewart, Colbert and Oliver, along with Steve Carell, Ed Helms and more, then sent them on to do bigger and better things. These men have become icons in their own right, an indelible piece of comedy history. It’s time that they do the same thing for a woman.