CNN Considering 'Comedians' Bill Maher, Jon Stewart, Trevor Noah For Primetime

CNN fired Chris Cuomo 13 months ago as host of its flagship 9 pm hour. One year later, the time slot remains vacant.

Network CEO Chris Licht has tested various in-house anchors during the hour, from Laura Coates to Sara Sidner, from Kasie Hunt to Jake Tapper.

Unhappy with the results, Licht is now considering outside options. Non-traditional options, that is.

According to the outlet Semafor, citing five people familiar with the planning, CNN is discussing the possibility of hiring a "comedian" for its 9 to 11 primetime hours.

Thus far, CNN has discussed four names: Bill Maher, Jon Stewart, Trevor Noah, and Arsenio Hall.

For background, Licht previously served as EP of "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert." Perhaps he credits himself for Colbert's rise atop late-night ratings and believes a show of similar format could usher CNN out of the viewership abyss.

Venturing away from stuffy, self-proclaimed "journalists" is a wise move for CNN. Viewers can only stomach so many hours of anchors declaring themselves neutral newsmen, an insult to the intelligence of even the most shallow viewers.

Spicing the lineup up with supposed satirists would freshen up the offering, giving CNN the identity it has lacked since Donald Trump left office in 2021. The idea also isn’t original. Fox News Channel’s “Gutfeld!” hosted by Greg Gutfeld weeknights at 11 pm ET has been a success for the network. It often beats late-night comedy shows on the broadcast networks hosted by left-leaning “comedians” Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon, and Jimmy Kimmel. (Fox News Channel and OutKick share the same parent company.)

However, for CNN, the theory is more promising than its reality.

A late-night style primetime program could work only should CNN can find a sufficient host. And therein lies the concern.

In the fall, OutKick publishes a column examining the supply for satire. Never has it been stronger. The word "woman" is in dispute. Our president cannot speak coherently. Our leaders are living parodies of George Orwell's "1984."

The fodder is unlimited. And yet, there is a shortage of talents willing to exploit the oddities of American society. They are afraid. Afraid of someone calling them racist, afraid of mean tweets and hit pieces. They are afraid the mob might ambush them, demand their cancellation.

Thereby, the list of political statists who are actually funny and influential is short.

While Bill Maher is among them, it's hard to fathom he'd consider a move to CNN. Currently, Maher hosts one day a week on HBO, CNN's sister station.

At HBO, there are no language restrictions or commercial breaks. Maher, 66, is coming off one of his most viral years to date, with an increased focus on "wokeness" and left-wing hysteria.

Quintupling his workload for a cable news network with a stained reputation, a diminishing audience, and cable limitations hardly seem plausible for Maher.

Jon Stewart is more likely to entertain the possibility. He's no longer of the star status that Maher is. No one watches his program on AppleTV+. And for good reason. The Stewart who now apologizes for his whiteness, is a mere shell of his former Daily Show self.

But signing Stewart would be costly. He's under contract with Apple. Signing him away would require a substantial investment from CNN's parent company Warner Bros. Discovery, a brand that's laid off hundreds of employees in recent months.

Then there is Trevor Noah.

CNN recorded its lowest-rated year on record in 2022. Viewers fled the channel in part because of its repetitive talking points, predictable banter, and cringe discourse.

Noah would only add to the problem.

Put simply, Trevor Noah is not funny. He's a satirist in name only. And he's been rather unsuccessful. Noah replaced Stewart on "The Daily Show" in 2015. He then lost over 76% of his predecessor's audience.

Noah epitomizes the fall of political satire. He aims to charm the execs, not create laughter for the audience.

He keeps his bits centered around Trump, white men, white women, and the GOP to avoid backlash from the police of humor.

That said, Noah is a free agent and he's not white. Thus, making him the most accessible and fitting choice for CNN.

As for Arsenio Hall, he hasn't been relevant in years. CNN might as well ask Anderson Cooper to crack jokes on a stage at the point they'd hire Hall.

"They’re looking for their version of John Oliver," an insider told Semafor.

They tried to find their version of Rachel Maddow in Chris Cuomo, Don Lemon, and Briann Keller. They failed.

CNN hopes for better success in replicating John Oliver.

Written by
Bobby Burack is a writer for OutKick where he reports and analyzes the latest topics in media, culture, sports, and politics.. Burack has become a prominent voice in media and has been featured on several shows across OutKick and industry related podcasts and radio stations.