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Hasan Minhaj Eyed For ‘Daily Show’ Host (EXCLUSIVE)

Comedian Hasan Minhaj has been eyed as a leading candidate for the open host role at Comedy Central’s “Daily Show,” according to three people familiar with the matter, suggesting that a months-long bake-off for the job among a phalanx of top comics is reaching its final stages.

Minhaj is not guaranteed to win the position, these people caution, and a deal is not believed to have been finalized. Still, his name has emerged as a likely successor to Trevor Noah, who left the job in a surprise maneuver late last year.

Minhaj, who worked on “Daily” as one of its team of faux “correspondents” between 2014 and 2018, and went on to serve as the host of a weekly program for Netflix called “Patriot Act,” said recently that he’d be open to the gig. “I’m definitely open to the conversation. It’s also a family conversation now. It’s a very different conversation then when I first got hired at the show when I was 29 My life is in a very different place. And so that’s a bigger life/family convo. It changes a lot of things,” he told Variety’s Awards Circuit Podcast in May. “It’s an all encompassing, all consuming thing. And other people have to live with the consequences of what I say. And I just want to make sure everybody, if that were to ever come to fruition, ‘hey, are we all on board with this?’

A spokeswoman for “Daily Show” declined to comment, and WME, the agency that represents Minhaj, declined to make executives available to discuss the matter. A publicist for Minhaj did not respond immediately to an email and a voice mail seeking more information.

Minhaj is one of a small army of celebrities who have raised their hand to be considered. After Noah departed, Comedy Central filled the show with temporary hosts such as Minhaj, Sarah Silverman, Leslie Jones, Kal Penn and Al Franken. A chunk of the show’s current group of correspondents, which include Roy Wood and Desi Lydic, have also had a turn behind the desk. While late-night competitors such as NBC’s “Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” and CBS’ “Late Show With Stephen Colbert” have stayed on the air in repeats during the current Hollywood writers’ strike, Comedy Central has not been airing any episodes of “Daily Show,” preferring to fill its grid with repeats of “South Park” and “The Office,” among other comedy series.

Like its late-night rivals, “Daily Show” faces headwinds. The young viewers who once flocked to David Letterman and Jon Stewart have begun to move elsewhere after TV’s late local news, and often view late-night bits and skits via social media — a behavior that is harder for the TV networks to monetize.

Comedy Central had hoped to come to a decision about a new “Daily” host as soon as May, in time to talk to advertisers during the industry’s annual “upfront” marketplace, when TV networks try to sell the bulk of their commercial time for their next cycle of programming. Some executives involved with the show wanted to continue testing new talent, buoyed by the fact that shows featuring guest hosts earned a ratings uptick. “I think there are a lot of people who want the job,” Jen Flanz, executive producer of “Daily” told Variety earlier this year. “I would like to see a lot of people do it before we make any kind of decision.”

But the writers strike may have delayed those plans. Indeed, CBS had hoped to launch a new show at 12:30 a.m. this fall to replace the departing James Corden. The strike has altered that timetable as well, according to people familiar with the matter.

TV’s late-night programs continue to generate discussion and the threads of popular culture. But the longer shows like NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” and ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live” remain dark, the more risk there is of viewers in the era of streaming video making permanent changes to their consumption habits. In 2018, seven late night programs — NBC’s “Tonight” and “Late Night,” CBS’ “Late Show” and “Late Late Show,” ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” Comedy Central’s “Daily Show” and NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” — drew more than $698 million in advertising in 2018, according to Vivvix, a tracker of ad spending. By 2022, that total came to $412.7 million — a drop of approximately 41% over five years.

Some of the hosts seem eager to get back to their wee-hours antics. Jimmy Fallon has been spotted on social media making segments about cooking, for example. NBC’s listings for repeats of its “Late Night with Seth Meyers” often include a nod to the writers behind segments of each rebroadcast.

Naming a new host for “Daily Show” would no doubt raise new interest in the program ahead of any post-strike return.

Michael Schneider contributed to this report

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