The late-night circuit has long been dominated by white men (mostly named “Jimmy,” as the Washington Post’s Alexandra Petri pointed out). Though the slot David Letterman will leave open at CBS when he retires in 2015 will likely be filled by yet another white man (reports claim that Stephen Colbert is the front-runner), there are plenty of non-white or male comedians out there who could breathe new life into the longstanding series.
A woman taking over for Letterman could forever change the decades-long late-night sausage fest. Here are 18 people — some household names and a few less famous comedians — who could be worth taking the risk for CBS.
1. Julie Klausner
Band leader: Ted Leo
Writer Julie Klausner would be a great pick for The Late Show. Her podcast How Was Your Week? has captured the hearts of thousands of people nationwide, proving she is a terrific host and interviewer. Plus, her work in front of the camera for Vulture shows she is also a dynamic performer. Klausner has written for Best Week Ever, Billy on the Street, and John Mulaney’s new pilot Mulaney.
2. Carrie Brownstein
Band Leader: Fred Armisen
Brownstein began her career as a magazine writer and has since been interviewed countless times, so the format shouldn’t be a problem for her. Her television background in writing for and performing on her IFC show with Armisen Portlandia gives her a great foundation for understanding how to write and execute skits with her guests. A major bonus: She’s incredibly funny and her chemistry with Armisen is already built in. All she’d have to do is steal him from Seth Meyers.
3. Aisha Tyler
Band leader: Aloe Blacc
OK, so The Late Show would have to steal her from The Talk and Whose Line Is It Anyway and her podcast Guy on Girl, but that just goes to show how perfect she is for the gig. Tyler has clearly proven that she’s a fantastic host. She’s fast on her feet and fantastically funny, so her monologues would be effortless and her improv skills would come in handy when interacting with her guests.
4. Kristen Schaal
Band Leader: Kurt Braunohler
With a background both in improv and stand-up comedy, Schaal would bring a unique blend of skills to CBS, which needs a host that can do a little bit of everything. Her work on The Daily Show proves she knows how to carry an interview and she’s a character actress who is perfectly weird. It’s delightful to imagine how she could spice up The Late Show.
5. Rashida Jones
Band Leader: Haim
The Late Show would be a departure from Jones’ usual scripted fare, but that could be great for her. She just finished Parks and Recreation, so maybe it’s time for something new. Not only is Jones incredibly smart, friendly, and funny, but her background in writing, acting, and alternative creative ventures (like writing a comic book) would make her stand out among her competitors.
6. Amy Schumer
Band Leader: Donald Glover
Amy has been a recurring guest on Fox News’ Red Eye with Greg Gutfeld so she knows the deal. She’s currently starring in her own show on Comedy Central called Inside Amy Schumer, for which she also writes. Can you imagine how good her shorts and sketches would be?
7. Tig Notaro
Band Leader: Tegan and Sara
It’s time we put Tig front and center. Seeing someone so honest and blunt — who’s also an out lesbian — hold the prominent spot on The Late Show would be great. No doubt her cult following would tune in every night, and while that might not be enough to carry a show, we feel confident America would fall in love with her.
8. Maya Rudolph
Band leader: Jean Grae
There is no better choice than Maya Rudolph for the Late Show spot. As an actress, singer, and comedian, she can do it all. She’s said before it is her dream to have a variety show, and NBC ordered such a series headlined by Rudolph in November. While she doesn’t have much interviewing experience, we have faith she could rock it.
9. Amy Poehler
Band leader: Tina Fey
Amy Poehler on our television every night? Yes please! She’d bring endless humor and wit and we’d happily skip our plans in order to stay in and watch her every night. Poehler’s proven she cannot only host, but that that type of topical humor is where she thrives. So put her in the game (with Fey if possible, please)!
10. Amy Sedaris
Band Leader: Ben Gibbard
Sedaris has been around the late-night block many many times. She’s been on every single show around and for good reason: She’s hysterical. Her background in narrative writing could mean a type of talk show we don’t see often.
11. Wanda Sykes
Band Leader: Chris Rock
Wanda Sykes tried late night once before with The Wanda Sykes Show and even though it didn’t work, it’s time for her to get a second shot. She’s older, wiser, and funnier than ever. She could easily stand her own, bringing a new voice to late night.
12. Tina Fey
Band Leader: Amy Poehler
It’s doubtful she’d have time, but having Tina Fey back on television would be the best. She has already been a writer and producer and knows how to do improvisation and skits with actors, writers, and musicians. Taking over The Late Show would probably be a walk in the park. Bonus: It would be kind of amazing to have a mother as a late-night host.
13. Ellen DeGeneres
Band Leader: Pharrell Williams
Yes, it would mean the end of her beloved daytime talk show, but that may just be worth it. There is a bit of a dark side hidden under DeGeneres’ daytime glow that would really be brought out during the late-night lineup. Seeing her open up and discuss the topics she can’t at her day job would be a treat and would allow one of American’s favorite women to become an even more well-rounded comedian.
14. Helen Hong
Band Leader: Cee Lo Green
Helen Hong is an experienced host and comedian, and although she’s not a household name, her experience hosting shows on TV Guide and Fuse, among her other work, is good preparation for late-night interviews. As a relatively unknown, but wildly talented comedian, Hong could breath some much-needed fresh air to The Late Show.
15. Natasha Leggero
Band Leader: Cameron Esposito
Whether its roasting James Franco or hosting the New Year’s Eve ball drop, Natasha Leggero is always hilarious, a little over the top, and not afraid to offend. She has proven she’s ready for her own show, and picking her would be a risky and surprising for CBS.
16. Mindy Kaling
Band Leader: Jenny Lewis
Mindy, Mindy, Mindy. How badass would that be? Kaling has already almost done it all, but now it’s time for something different: her own late-night show. Seeing this comedian and fashionista every night would be great and she would excel if given the platform to make us laugh and to light-heartedly cover the topics that she cares about.
17. Jen Kirkman
Band Leader: Robyn
Outspoken, fearless, and hilarious, Jen Kirkman would offer the Light Night stage a completely unique attitude. She’d unapologetically break up the boys’ club, and with regular appearances on Chelsea Lately and performances on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, @Midnight, and Conan, this badass lady is ready for the spotlight.
18. Jane Lynch
Band leader: Natasha Leggero
From her unforgettable performance in The 40-Year-Old Virgin to her hilarious character in Glee, Jane Lynch steals every scene she is in. Her hosting experience is vast, and this year, she took the stage at the New Year’s Eve ball drop, along with Natasha Leggero. The two had a great dynamic and we’d love to see them together again. Lynch has a rare charm that makes her both a hilarious comedian and also a vastly popular and adored performer. She could carry a late-night talk show with ease and success.