With Kal Penn and Charlamagne Tha God Returning, ‘The Daily Show’ Continues Recycling Old Guest Hosts Instead of Making A Real Decision

Are the repeat guest hosting gigs callback auditions, or are the producers just running out of temps?
With Kal Penn and Charlamagne Tha God Returning, ‘The Daily Show’ Continues Recycling Old Guest Hosts Instead of Making A Real Decision

Back in September, Hasan Minhaj purportedly knocked himself out of the pole position to become the permanent host of The Daily Show after the veracity of his work was called into question – but maybe the real “emotional truth” was the showrunner’s claim that they’ll ever give up their guest host gig economy.

One week from today marks the one year anniversary of when Daily Show executives announced that their long-running satirical news show would undergo a celebrity guest host carousel as both a stop-gap and an extended audition process while they searched for the successor of the outgoing Trevor Noah. This week, former Daily Show contributor Michelle Wolf is sitting in the host’s chair, and, yesterday, Comedy Central announced the upcoming return of former guest hosts Kal Penn and Charlamagne Tha God, who will each take their second stab at leading the channel’s flagship late-night show over the next two weeks.

The ratings certainly justify the current format of week-long tenures from visiting actors, comedians and podcast hosts as the guest host era has outpaced Noah’s nightly duties. However, as the exercise enters a phase of repeat performances, it’s starting to seem as if the Daily Show producers have run out of fresh talent and the smorgasbord of temps is turning stale. It’s like Comedy Central executives saw the stagnation of enthusiasm in the later Noah years and thought, “Why wait for our audience to get tired of one host when we can gradually bore them with twenty?”

We’ve previously suggested that treating the hosting desk as a temporary position similar to the guest’s chair might be the best way for The Daily Show to stay relevant in a rapidly changing media landscape in which traditional late-night shows are on the decline. That proposal, however, hinged on Comedy Central’s ability to continuously book new talent with unique perspectives to keep the format fluid and inventive. Penn and Charlamagne will follow Sarah Silverman and Leslie Jones as repeat hosts as the in-flux correspondents team continues to prop up the production and take their own turns in the big chair.

In that time, however, The Daily Show lost its longest-tenured correspondent, fan-favorite comic Roy Wood Jr., whom many considered to be the biggest talent left on the show and the strongest contender for the head job. “I can't come up with Plan B while still working with Plan A," Wood said of his decision to leave in the midst of the endless host hiring process despite ostensibly being a shoe-in for the short list. “The job of correspondent...it's not really one where you can juggle multiple things. I think eight years is a good run.”

Maybe repeat hosting duties means that the many prospects for the hosting gig have entered the callback phase of the audition process. Hopefully, the Daily Show producers’ ongoing decision to double up on guest hosts is a calculated one in service of a larger goal and not the barrel-scraping move of a bunch of executives who are already out of ideas. Almost a year into the guest host experiment, we still haven’t learned anything new about the future of The Daily Show – other than that Hasan Minhaj probably isn’t in it.

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