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Search Begins To Find Jon Stewart's Successor At 'The Daily Show'

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- Jon Stewart's fans were gobsmacked by the sad news he delivered on Tuesday's edition of "The Daily Show": He's leaving his phony anchor desk and ending his reign as phony newsman.

"This show doesn't deserve an even slightly restless host, and neither do you," he told his audience. He said he might depart in July, September or maybe December. He didn't say what he intends to do next.

Stewart has spent 16 years at the helm of the show.

Stewart Redefined How Some Get Their News

"You get in this business with the idea that maybe you have a point of view and something to express, and to receive feedback from that is the greatest feeling I can ask for, and I thank you," Stewart said.

Stewart didn't invent satire, but he modernized it and tailored it for an information age ruled by TV and the Internet. In compact "Daily Show" segments, he struck a blow against cable-news and talk-network fare.

No wonder political leaders, authors, scholars and others with useful things to say flocked to his show right along with celebs who came to pitch their latest projects. Stewart, playing his designated role as court jester, goaded them with humor to get them to say what they meant in ways "serious" interviewers can't or won't.

As the lead phony anchor, Stewart was the steward for a star system of supporting fake journalists. These included John Oliver, who last year launched HBO's investigative-comedy half-hour, "Last Week Tonight," and Larry Wilmore, who recently bowed in the post-Stewart slot with his as-yet-unproven "Nightly Show."

But Stewart's greatest protege is Stephen Colbert, whose "Colbert Report" was a masterful masquerade presided over by a willful nincompoop.

The question of who can replace Jon Stewart on "The Daily Show" seems roughly akin to asking his fans what might serve for the sun.

His passion, wit and boldness make for a magical combination that will be difficult to re-create when Stewart steps away as host sometime later this year.

"The X-factor here is Stewart's charisma. It's significant," said Sophia McClennen, a Penn State professor and author of "Is Satire Saving our Nation?: Mockery and American Politics."

As editor-in-chief of the Boston Herald and later the New York Daily News, Kevin Convey remembers asking himself, "What is it with this generation that wants to get its news from a guy who isn't a newsman?"

But as social media started to emerge, it clicked, "this whole idea of getting news from people that you know or people that you feel that you know, as in the case of Jon Stewart," Convey, now the journalism chair at Quinnipiac University, told WCBS 880's Alex Silverman.

The "Daily Show" boot camp has graduated a number of impressive talents who might prove to be worthy of the host chair, McClennen said, counting John Oliver first among a group including Aasif Mandvi, Samantha Bee and Jason Jones.

There are outsiders who certainly have the comedic chops. But do they have the star power and the backbone to speak punchlines to power, and on a nightly basis?

Looking over the possibilities, here are some candidates to consider:

-- Oliver. He's top of the list for a reason: He proved he could emerge from the "Daily Show" ranks and succeed as host when Stewart took a movie-making break. Oliver and his dimples defected to HBO, but his return home would be triumphant.

-- Tina Fey or Amy Poehler, paired for efficiency's sake given their frequent collaborations. Like Stewart and Oliver, they've got the likability that helps make hard-hitting satire palatable -- and how about at least one woman in late-night TV?

-- Chris Rock. Brilliantly funny, certainly fearless. He wrote an essay about being black in an entertainment industry that is "kind of racist" in its hiring practices -- although he said he wasn't being political at all, adding, "that's Stewart, that's (Bill) Maher."

-- Seth MacFarlane. He's a writer, performer and singer who can summon the juvenile glee, if not the artfulness, that Stewart employs to leaven the angst. And he could bring a sidekick, his devilish movie creation Ted the teddy bear.

-- Jessica Williams. A "Daily Show" player whose titles include "senior youth" and "senior Beyonce" correspondent, she's brimming with energy and edgy charm. Whether she has the experience and heft to step into the center ring is an open question.

-- Joel McHale. The "Soup" host already balances his "Community" sitcom role with a host gig, so why not step it up? He's quick witted, lovable and has a following that encompasses the frat-boy demo that is undeniably part of the "Daily Show" fan base.

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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