Comedy Central's The Daily Show had humble beginnings. First aired on July 21, 1996, it was advertised as a satirical news program created by Lizz Winstead and Madeleine Smithberg to replace Politically Incorrect, which had moved to ABC. Initially hosted by Craig Kilborn, The Daily Show looked at the ins and outs of the daily news cycle, poking fun at celebs like David Hasselhoff, doing interviews with celebrity guests, and concluding with "Your Moment of Zen." The show was mildly successful, but — and you already know this — it didn't truly become the Emmy-winning juggernaut we all know and love until Kilborn left in 1998, making way for new host Jon Stewart. While Kilborn's reign at The Daily Show tended to balance entertainment and politics, Stewart's iteration of the show heavily skewed towards the latter, especially during election years. Stewart kept the "Moment of Zen," but brought a new edge to the show, putting politicians and their bullshit on blast, both in segments and during interviews.
However, beyond Stewart and Kilborn, what's made the 20-year run of The Daily Show even more special is the incredible comedic talent it assembled. The correspondents and contributors on The Daily Show have always been central to the identity of the show, from Kristen Schaal and Samantha Bee's focus on women's rights to Stephen Colbert's parody of Republicanism to Larry Wilmore's former role as "Senior Black Correspondent." It's become a rite of passage: Correspondents blossom on The Daily Show and then move on to impact comedy on a larger scale. Whether it's Trevor Noah filling the big shoes of Jon Stewart, or stars like Jessica Williams and John Oliver branching out with their own projects, the seeds planted by The Daily Show have always bloomed into bigger and better things. Without two decades of The Daily Show and its many breakout stars, it's difficult imagine what our current comedy landscape would even look like.
Don't believe us? Check out this Daily Show family tree, detailing the correspondents and contributors of the greatest satirical news program of all time — and the dozens of movies, TV shows and more they graduated to.