Jon Stewart is the highest paid late night host, even though his Daily Show is on cable (Comedy Central) and averages an audience only about a third the size of Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show audience. Stewart’s 1.5 million loyal (he’s been on since 1999) viewers per show hit advertisers’ most targeted demographic (18-49) perfectly, while the demographic for Fallon’s Tonight Show demo is a little broader. (Fallon’s audience is around 4.3 million.) Stewart reportedly makes $25-30 million a year, topping David Letterman’s second-place $20 million per. (Letterman has made more in the past.) Fallon is paid $11 million.
Even at that level, Stewart’s salary will seem a bargain in a few months: as Comedy Central knows–and as you’ll soon be unable to avoid knowing–there’s an election coming up. Stewart’s Daily Show thrives during national elections the way other late night shows just aren’t set up to. John Oliver, btw, makes $2 million a year for his blistering new show on HBO. Oliver trained at The Daily Show.