Man, this one hurts. Comedy Central announced today that Jon Stewart will be stepping down as the host of The Daily Show later this year, ending a 17-year run on the late night series. Stewart wholly transformed the comedy show when he took over from Craig Kilborn in 1999, putting a greater emphasis on politics and satire and exploding onto a media scene dominated by 24-hour news networks.
The move isn’t incredibly surprising, as Stewart took his first-ever leave of absence from the series last summer to make his directorial debut with Rosewater. In his stead, John Oliver hosted the show and did such a great job that he soon after got his own late night series at HBO, the fantastic Last Week Tonight. In interviews on the Rosewater press tour Stewart was frequently asked if he had an endgame or had thought about leaving The Daily Show soon, and the host seemed like he had started thinking about life after the series.
An official end date is not yet confirmed, as Comedy Central only says he’ll be leaving sometime this year. As someone who’s been watching every episode for years now, this is a massive, massive bummer. Stewart’s funny, affable, and most importantly passionate demeanor brought a degree of candor to the news that’s refreshing and almost comforting, and in the process he launched the careers of folks like Steve Carell, Ed Helms, Stephen Colbert, Rob Corddry, etc., etc.
Speaking of which, with Colbert taking over The Late Show and Stewart departing The Daily Show, this is truly the end of an era at Comedy Central. Stewart remains an executive producer on The Colbert Report replacement The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore, which he helped put together, but the late night Comedy Central landscape will be drastically different come 2016; it’s gonna be really hard to get used to not seeing his face every night.
This won’t be the end of The Daily Show as I’m sure Stewart will be replaced (though I can’t think of many viable candidates from the current lineup—Samantha Bee and Jason Jones are great, but better in supporting roles. Jessica Williams could be fun.), and I sincerely hope that Stewart does opt to take up another interesting project after he leaves. His is a voice that feels almost vital in today’s media climate.
Stewart will make a formal announcement on tonight’s episode, so be sure to tune in. Read Comedy Central president Michele Ganeless’ statement on the matter below, followed by one of Stewart’s finest moments on the series:
“For the better part of the last two decades, I have had the incredible honor and privilege of working with Jon Stewart. His comedic brilliance is second to none. Jon has been at the heart of Comedy Central, championing and nurturing the best talent in the industry, in front of and behind the camera. Through his unique voice and vision, The Daily Show has become a cultural touchstone for millions of fans and an unparalleled platform for political comedy that will endure for years to come. Jon will remain at the helm of The Daily Show until later this year. He is a comic genius, generous with his time and talent, and will always be a part of the Comedy Central family.”