Martin Crook/Comedy Central

10: Consecutive Primetime Emmy wins for outstanding variety, music or comedy series from 2002 to 2012

Why he matters: As America's satirist-in-chief, Stewart shows no signs of slowing down after 15 years atop Comedy Central's flagship. After taking a two-month hiatus last summer to direct the film Rosewater, about British journalist Maziar Bahari's harrowing imprisonment in Iran, he returned to Daily Show in September to boffo ratings, averaging more than 2 million viewers. As late-night's highest-paid star, with a reported annual salary between $25 million and $30 million a year, Stewart -- who is raising two children with wife Tracey while owning multiple multimillion-dollar properties including in New Jersey and Tribeca -- credits his award-winning staff for his phenomenal success. "We have a very deep bench, and there are a lot of people here who kind of work their asses off," he says. "I marvel sometimes at what they pull together."

Nemesis: On alienating his show's targets (like CNN and its BP-sponsored morning-show "couch walk"), Stewart says, "When my run is over here, I will not have that many friends left in the media. I won't have that many people to talk to at the 21 Club, where I'm always sitting in a back room with Swifty Lazar."

Keeping things fresh: "One of the more difficult things is the [news] cycle, [which] while relentless is also very redundant," says Stewart. "[It's] such that there are times where you think, man, a little deja vu here. We're always looking to find ways to organically evolve the process in which we're trying to deconstruct things."