When Jon Stewart left The Daily Show in 2015 to grow a beard full-time, and Stephen Colbert exited his post at The Colbert Report to go head-to-head with Jimmy Fallon on the front lines of the Late Night Wars, a cadre of very funny women were propped up by the internet as possible replacements.
There was Jessica Williams, the then-correspondent on the Daily Show whose position as a millennial woman of color would have provided a unique perspective woefully missing in late night; Amy Schumer, who was way too big of a star to realistically consider the gig; and perhaps the most obvious choice, Samantha Bee, The Daily Show's longest-serving correspondent and logical heir apparent to Stewart's throne.
Instead, Comedy Central tapped the unproven stand-up Trevor Noah for Stewart's job, and The Daily Show veteran Larry Wilmore to replace Colbert. While both decisions were praised for upending the late-night status quo—Noah and Wilmore are both black—it's hard not to feel like Comedy Central missed an incredible opportunity to catalyze a paradigm shift.
On Monday, the network made the surprise announcement that Larry Wilmore's The Nightly Show would air its last episode tonight, citing the show's inability to connect with audiences as the reason it was axed. It's the perfect opportunity for Comedy Central to raze a late-night television landscape dominated by men.
While it's unlikely that the network will replace Wilmore until after the election—starting a politically leaning show mid-season is certain doom—Comedy Central president Kent Alterman said he would consider options both inside and outside the network's talent base, telling the Hollywood Reporter, "We're totally open to women and in whatever form of diversity would come, we're open to it for sure."
The bad news is, the aforementioned Williams, Schumer, and Bee are no longer available. Williams is developing her own scripted show for the network, Bee is killing it over at TBS as the host of Full Frontal, and Schumer is toplining movies with Jennifer Lawrence and winning Emmys for her own show, Inside Amy Schumer. But all it takes is one look at Wilmore's abysmal ratings and his failure to tap into the cultural zeitgeist to realize that viewers are fatigued by late night's patriarchal norms. In other words, it's time for a change.
In a piece called "The Women Who Could Replace Larry Wilmore On Comedy Central," The Daily Beast's Matt Wilstein lists The Nightly Show contributors Grace Parra and Franchesca Ramsey, both young women of color whose singular points of view and Twitter-era appeal would give Comedy Central's 11:30 p.m. time slot the shot in the arm it so desperately needs. Wilstein also suggests Jessi Klein, the head writer on Inside Amy Schumer and the brain behind the viral-sensation sketch, "Last Fuckable Day." All three choices would be inspired, as would giving women outside of the Comedy Central family a look—women like Kristen Schaal of Last Man Standing, or Chelsea Peretti of Brooklyn Nine Nine, the prolific writer whose right mix of snark and savvy make her an ideal choice to subvert the genre.
While the cancellation of The Nightly Show was ultimately about ratings, it comes at a time when we desperately need women to lead the public conversation on major political and cultural issues. Samantha Bee's Full Frontal and Chelsea Handler's Chelsea are still just exceptions on the late-night landscape. And with the rise of Donald Trump and his politics of misogyny—a glaring reminder that we still have a long way to go when it comes to gender equality—it's time for late-night TV to serve as an amplifier for women's voices.