Comedy Central has locked up Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert for the next few years, but the reality is that both will likely be at the Viacom cabler long after that.
Stewart’s two-year extension keeps him at the desk of “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart” through the middle of 2015 while Colbert will continue his right-wing act on “The Colbert Report” through 2014.
For many years, Stewart was thought of as a possible heir to David Letterman on CBS’ “The Late Show” when Letterman steps aside — though Letterman’s retirement date is still uncertain. And Stewart continues to gain cultural and political significance from the pulpit of his small uptown Gotham studio where he does his 11 p.m. laffer.
Eschewing typical latenight formats that feature monologues and interviews with celebs that are there to tout their latest project (though such appearances happen occasionally on “Daily Show”), Stewart has been able to set his show’s agenda, including talks with political-themed authors who are far from household names.
Since taking over from former “Daily Show” host Craig Kilborn in 1999, Stewart has unflinchingly skewered politicians and networks — mostly on the cable side — and, crucially, made an imprint with young viewers. “The Daily Show” is tops in latenight in both the 18-34 and 18-49 demo.
Through the end of June, “The Daily Show” was drawing 1.3 million viewers in the 18-49 demo, up 10% from a year ago. That’s better than both “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” and “The Late Show.”
And both “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report” have made major inroads digitally. This year “The Daily Show” averages around 390,000 full-episode streams while “Colbert” scores 187,000.
As for the satirical “The Colbert Report,” which launched in 2005, its host has a long history with Comedy Central dating back to the mid-’90s. Colbert appeared on sitcoms “Exit 57” and “Strangers With Candy” before becoming a writer and performer on “The Daily Show.”
Colbert’s cultural imprint is also significant. He has exposed how excessive political monies are raised with his Super Pac routines and was a presidential candidate on the ballot in the South Carolina primary.