For a long time, SNL was clearly the biggest incubator of comedic talent in America, turning complete unknowns into movie stars and household names on a regular basis. But over the past seventeen years, The Daily Show has increasingly become close to its equal in the comedy world. For a comedic performer looking to make a name for themselves, becoming a correspondent for Jon Stewart is one of the most coveted jobs around, and for good reason. The show has had dozens of contributors and correspondents over the past couple decades – several of whom you know, but many who you don't. Let's take a look at every one of them and see just how impressive The Daily Show's talent scouting and development has been.
To make this easier, let's start at the beginning. The year is 1996, Craig Kilborn is hosting The Daily Show as the first anchor of America's most trusted news source, and with him he had a helluva news team. First, let's start with the original team…
Lizz Winstead. We would be remiss to list anyone but Lizz first, as she co-created the show along with Madeleine Smithberg, who served as talent coordinator for Letterman in the early 80s. Aside from being half the reason The Daily Show exists, Winstead also helped get The Man Show off the ground, appeared on Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn, and was also one of the co-creators of Air America Radio, in 2003.
Watch Lizz Winstead with Sarah Silverman doing a commentary sketch about Romney, as clips from The Daily Show were unavailable.
A. Whitney Brown. If this name sounds familiar, it's because years earlier Brown was a writer and featured player on SNL, where he routinely lampooned the news opposite Dennis Miller on Weekend Update – so of course, he was a natural fit for The Daily Show's first set of newsmen. As an entertainer, he also appeared on both Letterman and Carson. Since his Daily Show days, Brown has kept relatively out of the spotlight – aside from a stint contributing to Winstead's Air America.
Here’s an old clip of A. Whitney Brown, talking religion and doing some stand up — clips from The Daily Show were once again unavailable.
Brian Unger. One of the more recognizable faces of TDS's original roster, Unger's passion for mocking the news has taken him far. After his run as one of the original correspondents, he went off to provide commentary on his own show on NPR for six years (as well as many subsequent regular appearances), on VH1's "I Love The…" series, MSNBC's Countdown With Keith Olbermann, The Discovery Channel's Some Assembly Required, and on The History Channel's How The States Got Their Shapes. And of course, many people will likely recognize Unger from his recurring role as The Lawyer, on FX's "It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia."
Here is some of Brian Unger’s hard hitting journalism, about novelty teeth-maker Dr. Bukk.
David Wain and Michael Showalter. Only contributing correspondents one time apiece during the first season, this 2/3 of the comedy group Stella (sans Michael Ian Black) had freshly starred in the cult MTV sketch comedy hit, The State. Wain and Showalter would team up time and time again, cowriting 2001's Wet Hot American Summer, 2005's sketch series Stella, Adult Swim's Childrens Hospital, and both having several appearances on pals from The State's show, Reno 911!. In addition, Showalter hosted the CollegeHumor exclusive The Michael Showalter Showalter, and David Wain is responsible for writing and directing Role Models and Wanderlust.
Check out this classic Stella sketch with Wain, Showalter, and Michael Ian Black, as alas, their clip is locked away in a vault somewhere.
Beth Littleford. Beth is the longest serving original correspondent, having been on from 1996 to 2000 (Frank DeCaro, an original cast member, did serve longer but wasn’t a correspondent). In addition to her duties as correspondent, Beth has also served in the hosting chair, a claim to fame held by few others, namely John Oliver and Rob Corddry. Beth Littleford joins Brian Unger as one of the original correspondents to have subsequently served as a panelist on VH1's "I Love The…" series, though her career far from ends there. On TV she has been recognizable as housewife Dana from ABC's Desperate Housewives, and Sandra Berger in MTV's The Hard Times of RJ Berger. Moreover, Beth has a prolific voiceover career, having lent her voice to cartoons Ben10, The Cleveland Show, and Family Guy.
Watch Beth interview Boy George for the show in 1999.
Caroline Rhea. Another recognizable face from the original news team is Caroline Rhea, who is credited as a correspondent only a single time. The year of TDS's debut in 1996, she was a costar of a brand new show called Sabrina the Teenage Witch, as Aunt Hilda. The show was a huge success, and fans of talking puppet cats celebrated, as Caroline’s career as an actress and comedian gained traction quickly. Since then, she was one of the squares on the last iteration of Hollywood Squares, a regular on Sordid Lives: The Series, and is one of the main voices for hit cartoon show, Phineas and Ferb.
Check out this stand up clip of Caroline at a benefit at the Second City Theater in Canada, as her episode is sadly unavailable.
Susie Essman. Yes, that’s right. Susie Essman was at one time a Daily Show correspondent. Unfortunately for us, like Caroline Rhea, she is only credited as literally a ONE time correspondent. You know her as the ineffable and furious Susie Greene, wife of Jeff Garlin’s Jeff Greene on Curb Your Enthusiasm. In addition, she provided the voice of Mittens in 2008’s 3D animated film, Bolt, and has even co-hosted The View a couple times.
Here’s a great clip of Susie’s trials and tribulations with Larry David on Curb Your Enthusiasm, in lieu of her unfindable correspondent segment.