Daily Show players ready for prime time

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In the news this pilot-casting season: Comedy Central's fake newscast The Daily Show With Jon Stewart has become a hotbed of prime-time talent.

For decades, all eyes were on the Not Ready for Prime Time Players and their successors on NBC's Saturday Night Live, who were considered destined for sitcom and feature stardom.

Things began to shift last year, when veteran Daily Show correspondent Steve Carell became a breakout comedy star on television with his Golden Globe-winning role on NBC's The Office and on the big screen with The 40-Year-Old Virgin. This pilot season, Daily Show correspondent Rob Corddry and his brother, Daily Show contributor Nate Corddry, landed lead roles in two high-profile projects: Rob is the star of the Ricky Blitt/Seth MacFarlane comedy for Fox The Winner, while Nate costars in the Aaron Sorkin-Thomas Schlamme one-hour for NBC, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, which happens to be set behind the scenes of an SNL-type show.

"Not to take anything away from Saturday Night Live, but The Daily Show is a new breeding ground," says Sharon Klein, senior vp casting at 20th Century Fox TV, which produces The Winner. "Even though it's fake news, as newsreaders they have to be everyman and everywoman, and that's what we want."

The studio had a couple of Daily Show comedians read for the Winner role and cast Rob Corddry.

NBC executive vp casting Marc Hirschfeld, who in the past two years was involved with the castings of Carell in Office and Nate Corddry in Studio 60, takes a broader view at the success of Daily Show cast members.

"From my point of view, [Daily Show producers] got wiser and started tapping into the terrific talent pool that SNL has been exploiting for years to get their players," he says.

Indeed, Carell is an alumnus of Chicago's Second City comedy troupe, which also counts SNL's Tina Fey, Rachel Dratch, and Horatio Sanz as former members, and Rob Corddry was a performer with the Upright Citizens Brigade, which was cofounded by SNL's Amy Poehler. Like most of their SNL counterparts, many Daily Show players were regulars in the New York comedy circles before going on TV.

"The New York comedy scene, which has been underappreciated, is finally coming into its own, and you are going to see us really taking advantage of what those people have to offer," Hirschfeld says.

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