Has ‘The Daily Show’ Bumped ‘SNL’ as TV’s Premiere Comedy Launchpad?

John Oliver's new HBO gig signals 'Daily Show's' success in birthing new comedy stars

Has “The Daily Show” supplanted “Saturday Night Live” as a launching pad for modern comedy talent? It’s a judgment call, but in light of the latest budding star to break out of the former, it’s a barroom debate well worth having.

Word that John Oliver has scored his own topical comedy show at HBO — a development that seemed inevitable, somewhere, in the wake of his successful fill-in stint for Jon Stewart — follows Stephen Colbert’s spinoff; Steve Carell’s stand-alone stardom, first on “The Office” and then in features; and Ed Helms’ similar career arc. Others, including Rob Corddry and Rob Riggle, have also been in pretty constant demand, with plenty of “Children’s Hospital” fans out there, even if Corddry’s Fox show — the unfortunately named “The Winner” — fizzled.

PHOTOS: ‘Daily Show’ Correspondents: Where Are They Now?

It’s not like Lorne Michaels has completely lost his touch, with Jimmy Fallon and Seth Meyers slated to become NBC’s one-two latenight punch next year, and Tina Fey and Amy Poehler having become fixtures in the comedy firmament, despite their peculiar attraction to hosting the Golden Globes.

Still, through its early years “SNL” launched a staggering string of not-ready-for-primetime players not just into other TV programs but feature-film stardom, including Chevy Chase, John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Eddie Murphy, Will Ferrell and (sigh) Adam Sandler.

While the drain of talent has continued — prompting Variety to begin wondering about a cast crisis last spring — one can argue that the relatively meager wattage of those who have left the show in more recent years dovetails with its numbing creative drift, even if the ratings have inexplicably held up quite well.

Of course, there will be those who wonder how Comedy Central could have let Oliver get away after “The Daily Show” helped launch him, but that’s simply the nature of the beast and bidding wars. In a broader sense, Oliver’s opportunity only further enhances the program’s reputation for nurturing talent, with the understanding that as long as Stewart’s still around, the franchise is in good hands.

Oliver’s exit will be a blow, but no more so than the loss of Carell and Colbert were, and based on the current group of correspondents, the cupboard is hardly bare. Besides, while Stewart might not have much nice to say about the gun lobby, if there’s one thing his program knows how to do, clearly, it’s reload.

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  1. Wonder Mike says:

    I vaguely remember some “Saturday Night Live” show like 20 years ago but I assumed it died off with mad tv. Does anyone actualy watch tv?

  2. JP says:

    This is quite the slanted piece. While I think the Daily Show successes have been properly mentioned, you’ve left off several recent SNL stars who have had quite a bit of success including Jason Sudeikis, Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, and Tracy Morgan along with modest success from Will Forte, Bill Hader, Fred Armisen, and Andy Samberg. And heck, since you’re mentioned Stephen Carrell, who hasn’t been on TDS in some time, let’s also make sure to mention that SNL alums also include curiously unmentioned mega successes like Mike Myers and Chris Rock, the still relevant Conan O’Brien and the not as famous but still successful Chris Parnell, Ana Gasteyer, and Molly Shannon.

    So yes, is The Daily Show a good launching pad for future comedy success? Seems like it is. But is it anywhere near SNL? It’s a very long way away, even though SNL’s heyday has passed, they still far outpace The Daily Show as a comedic launching pad. The Daily Show is only impressive by comparison when you don’t mention many of the SNL successes.

  3. Starting with, “That Was The Week That Was”, continuing with SNL and Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show, intelligent comedy and comments about worldly events is wonderful entertainment. The bonus is many who watch The Daily Show learn about how government works(or not work)might never had an interest. As for your question, Jon Stewart and company are the campions!

  4. Peggy says:

    Yes, all those shows seem to be excelling at giving white comedians a leg up. (Remember in “The Hangover” there was a black woman actor in that same scene with Rob Riggle),

    • Peggy says:

      Amazing how you Slave Owners succeed in calling anyone who points out anything racial a name to shut them down just like you did during slavery and reconstruction.

  5. CB says:

    Rob Riggle was on SNL before DS, where he struggled as well. His big break came with “In the face!” in the Hangover (which also catapulted Ed Helms career).

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