What's going on at 'The Daily Show'? Roy Wood Jr. gone, Hasan Minhaj backlash, new hosting contenders emerge.

The late-night talk show returns to Comedy Central Oct. 16 with plenty of uncertainty around its future.

Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Getty Images
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With the Writers Guild of America strike finally coming to an end late-last month after a grueling 148-day work stoppage, late-night hosts Stephen Colbert, Seth Meyers and the Jimmies (Fallon & Kimmel) have all returned to network airwaves, as have HBO’s Bill Maher and John Oliver.

Next up is The Daily Show, Comedy Central’s satirical news staple, which returns to its traditional 11 p.m. timeslot on Monday, Oct. 16 with a new slew of guest hosts.

Yet there’s an air of uncertainty around what exactly is happening behind the scenes of the network’s popular late-night favorite, from Roy Wood Jr.’s recent exit to a report that Hasan Minhaj would likely be the new permanent host… which never happened.

Why did Roy Wood Jr. leave?

The longtime correspondent broke the news to NPR last week that he was departing his role on The Daily Show after eight years.

“After eight amazing years on The Daily Show, where I’ve been able to pursue my comedic and political curiosities with some of the best writers, producers, crew and correspondents anyone could hope for, I’ve made the decision to move on,” he later posted in a statement on social media, thanking former host Trevor Noah, Paramount and Comedy Central.

“I am excited to nurture new ideas and see what the future holds for me in the shifting sands of late night television, scripted comedy and whatever else the comedy gods may have in store for me in 2024 and beyond.”

Wood indicated to NPR that a major reason he was leaving was because he was hoping for a shot at the show’s vacant hosting desk.

"I can't come up with what Plan B is while still working with Plan A," he told the outlet. "The job of correspondent... it's not really one where you can juggle multiple things. [And] I think eight years is a good run."

It’s unclear if that means Wood was passed up, or is still vying for the job.

So who exactly will be the next host of The Daily Show, and when will they be announced?

Noah left the program at the end of 2022 after replacing previous longtime host Jon Stewart in 2015. Prior to the strike beginning in May, the show was alternating guest hosts on a weekly basis, with Wood, Leslie Jones, Wanda Sykes, Chelsea Handler, Sarah Silverman, Al Franken and Minhaj and more taking a crack at it.

Some of those stints felt like novelties (Marlon Wayans, John Leguizamo, Kal Penn), but others felt like possible auditions, particularly for past and present correspondents like Wood, Minhaj, Jordan Klepper, Desi Lydic and Dulcé Sloan — and maybe even more seasoned hosts like Sykes and Handler. (A handful of planned hosts for May and June, including other correspondents Michael Kosta, Michelle Wolf and Ronny Chieng, never materialized due to the strike.)

In August, though, it appeared Comedy Central had made its choice. Variety reported that the network was eyeing Minhaj as its next permanent host. And while the trade cautioned that his hiring was not yet finalized, it’s rare for a publication like Variety to publish a casting story centered around one name without much doubt that pen will be put to paper.

That was three months ago, though, and Minhaj has yet to be confirmed — nor has anyone else.

It stands to reason that the show’s post-strike return would have been the perfect opportunity for a fresh host to start anew. But instead Comedy Central announced the show would once again feature guest hosts upon its Oct. 16 revival through the end of the year.

Deadline revealed Thursday that will begin with Kosta, followed by former Desus and Mero co-host (week of Oct. 23), Charlamagne the God (week of Oct. 30), Silverman again (week of Nov. 6), Jones again (week of Nov. 13), Sloan and Chieng together (week of Nov. 20) and Wolf (week of Nov. 27).

A new host is not expected to take over until early 2024, with Variety now reporting that the network is going “back to square one” in its search. The show is now “considering a wider array of candidates to take the reins of the program” beyond Minhaj, it says.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 20: Hasan Minhaj attends Sony Pictures'
Hasan Minhaj attends Sony Pictures's No Hard Feelings premiere at AMC Lincoln Square Theater on June 20, 2023 in New York City. (Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images)

What happened with Hasan Minhaj?

This, no one outside of Comedy Central/Paramount, The Daily Show and Minhaj’s inner-circle know for certain. But there’s been plenty of speculation.

Minhaj seemed like a logical choice. The 38-year-old comedian was a senior correspondent on the show under both Stewart and Noah from 2014-2018, left to host his own variety series, Netflix’s Patriot Act, over two seasons, and further tested his mettle as an emcee at the White House Correspondent’s Dinner and Independent Spirit Awards.

He also drew some of the biggest kudos for his Daily Show guest hosting duties in April.

Then in September, a story from the New Yorker revealed Minhaj heavily embellished many of his stories from his popular standup specials, and the comedian drew backlash in particular for exaggerating the Islamophobia and racism he faced during specific encounters with real people. “Lying in Comedy Isn’t Always Wrong, but Hasan Minhaj Crossed a Line,” read an op-ed from the New York Times.

“Every story in my style is built around a seed of truth,” Minhaj told the New Yorker. “My comedy Arnold Palmer is 70% emotional truth — this happened — and then 30% hyperbole, exaggeration, fiction,” adding, “The emotional truth is first. The factual truth is secondary.”

Veteran comedian and The View co-host Whoopi Goldberg defended Minhaj on her talk show, as did various standup performers on social media.

"That's what we do, we tell stories and we embellish them,” Goldberg said of comedians. “If you're gonna hold a comic to the point where you're gonna check up on stories, you have to understand, a lot of it is not the exact thing that happened because why would we tell exactly what happened? It ain't that interesting."

Could the kerfuffle around Minhaj’s admissions have derailed him from the Daily Show? It’s possible. It’s certainly been mentioned on repeat in reports of the show’s ongoing search for a new host.

The comedian also carried some previous baggage from 2020, when his Netflix show Patriot Act was called out by several former staffers on social media as an alleged toxic work environment for female women of color. The story didn’t receive nearly as much pickup as September’s New Yorker piece, though the comedian addressed the complaints in a 2022 interview with The Daily Beast.

According to Deadline, however, Minhaj is still on Paramount's short list of possible hosts, as are Jones (who Deadline's source say has reservations about a full-time gig) and Handler (who recently publicly campaigned for the job on The Tonight Show).

So what happens now?

The auditions, if you can call them that, continue Oct. 16.

This story was originally published Oct. 11 and updated Oct. 12.