Jon Stewart will give America his final Moment of Zen tonight, leaving with him a legacy as not just the sworn enemy of the 24-hour news cycle, but the creator of one of comedy’s most reliable talent farms. SNL still looms large, of course, but a tenure at The Daily Show can make a performer’s career — and for the ten people we’ve compiled here, it’s done just that. In honor of Stewart’s departure, we’ve compiled a definitive, objective, and legally binding list of the best fake journalists in the business.
10. John Hodgman
Every parody of a news show needs a parody of the wonky, pompous talking head stopping by for his monthly appearance on CNN. No one filled that role better than contributor and “Resident Expert” John Hodgman, who both looked and acted the part to a tee. Even though he never appeared regularly enough to rank higher on the list, Hodgman merits inclusion for being the human embodiment of “explainer journalism” before it was even a thing.
9. Rob Corddry
A regular from 2002 to 2006, arguably the show’s peak, Corddry brought the kind of self-assured bluster any television reporter needs, fake or otherwise. (Repeat after me: “What about these guns?!”) Corddry also added some local Bostonian flavor to the show with frequent mentions of his hometown, fitting perfectly into his bloward-white-guy persona. An honorable mention goes to his younger brother Nate, with whom Corddry regularly squared off onscreen.
8. Steve Carell
The first of Stewart’s correspondents to go on to proper mega-stardom, Steve Carell was part of The Daily Show as it was still finding its voice, hosting segments that would feel out of place in today’s version of the show, like his “Produce Pete” parody or “We Love Showbiz,” an E!-style show-within-a-show he co-hosted with his wife Nancy Walls. Carell thus merits inclusion as a reminder of the show’s more Weekend Update-esque phase, delivering punchlines like this GIF’ed-to-oblivion favorite of Tumblr’s.
7. Kristen Schaal
Schaal has been a regular on the show for years (fun fact: she’s married to longtime writer Rich Blomquist), but the Obama-era “War on Women” has truly been her time to shine. While her absurdist humor, on its surface, might not seem a natural fit for a current events satire show, it pairs perfectly with the insanity of patronizing campaign ads and sexy, sexy Halloween costumes.
6. Larry Wilmore
Wilmore was a ridiculously accomplished television writer before becoming a regular contributor in 2006, but over the next nine years, he established enough of an onscreen presence to take over Colbert’s slot with the reliably excellent Nightly Show. Thanks to Marc Maron’s recent interview with Wyatt Cenac, Stewart’s track record on race has come into question, but Wilmore’s segments—down to his job title—were a reliable source of shrewd commentary in the Obama era of “post-racial” America.
5. Aasif Mandvi
In the wake of Samantha Bee’s departure, Mandvi is now the longest-serving correspondent on The Daily Show by nearly half a decade. Though his job title is ostensibly “Senior Middle East Correspondent” (or “Senior Asian Correspondent, or “Senior Foreign-Looking Correspondent,” depending on the week), Mandvi has developed into a generalist, covering everything from foreign policy to health insurance to voting rights. Over nine years, Mandvi’s come to represent The Daily Show‘s signature form of Infotainment® as much as Stewart himself.
4. Stephen Colbert
Before he was “Stephen Colbert,” Colbert Report host or just plain Stephen Colbert, incoming Late Show host, the comedian was perfecting his persona as the face of segments like “This Week in God”—an important part of The Daily Show‘s #brand during the mid-aughts peak of the religious right. Colbert earns a higher slot than his former Even Stephven debate partner for staying in the Comedy Central Cinematic Universe to create The Daily Show‘s first true spiritual successor instead of jumping ship for NBC.
3. Jessica Williams
The fact that Williams became the Internet’s preferred Stewart replacement — and handled the resulting pressure with grace — at just 25 years of age speaks for itself. So do her segments on campus rape, the 2012 Republican convention, and most recently, an insistently crazy Harlem minister. Going into the Trevor Noah era, she might be the show’s most popular returning player… including her new boss.
2. Samantha Bee
The show’s longest-running correspondent until she left earlier this year to start her own series on TBS (meaning, yes, there will finally be a female news-comedy show host), Bee captured the frustrated incredulity of liberals under the Bush administration, and women under the current Congress/majority of state legislatures, better than anyone else. But even as half the show’s resident power couple with husband Jason Jones, Bee still loses the MVP slot by just a hair to…
1. John Oliver
Yes, he’s the obvious choice, but he’s obvious for a reason. Non-Americans seem to do well at The Daily Show — Bee is Canadian, and Stewart’s successor Trevor Noah is South African — and Oliver perfected the model of bringing an outsider’s perspective to the absurdities of U.S. politics, all while running both a popular podcast and a standup showcase on the side. No wonder he was picked as Stewart’s substitute during the filming of Rosewater, and no wonder he’s supplanted his former boss as the king of “WATCH [comedian] DESTROY [issue]!!!” headlines.