Comedian Jon Stewart is retiring as host of The Daily Show after more than 16 years, Comedy Central announced on Tuesday. The channel said Stewart, 52, would step down from the role later this year. The host also told the studio audience of his plans during the recording of Tuesday’s edition.
“In my heart I know it is time for someone else to have [this] opportunity,” said a visibly emotional Stewart. “This show doesn’t deserve an even slightly restless host, and neither do you. I don’t think I’m going to miss being on television every day, but I’m going to miss coming here every day... It’s been an absolute privilege. The home of my professional life. And I thank you for watching it, or hate-watching it – whatever reason you were tuning in for.”
Since he took original host Craig Kilborn’s spot behind the Daily Show desk in 1999, Stewart has become the most prominent satirical voice in the US. While always quick to insist that he is a comedian, not a journalist, he has also become one of the most trusted “news” anchors on television. Under Stewart’s leadership, The Daily Show has nurtured several other major talents including Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert, and the British comic John Oliver, who this week began the second run of his own show, Last Week Tonight, on HBO.
In 2013, Stewart took a lengthy vacation to direct his first feature film, the Iran-set drama Rosewater. That sabbatical led to widespread circulation that he would leave The Daily Show when his contract ran out this year. The host said he did not have “a specific plan” for his post-Daily Show career but, he added, “I’ve got a lot of ideas in my head.”
Comedy Central said its flagship programme would continue without Stewart and “for years to come”, and there was widespread circulation last night about who might succeed him. One early favourite is Larry Wilmore, The Daily Show’s former “Senior Black Correspondent”, who recently debuted his own Comedy Central vehicle, The Nightly Show.
“For the better part of the last two decades, I have had the incredible honour and privilege of working with Jon Stewart,” Comedy Central president Michele Ganeless said in a statement. “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.”
In an interview with New York magazine last year, Stewart said: “Doing anything for 16 years, there is going to be a level of sameness to it that is difficult, I’m sure, for an audience, but also difficult for a performer. That’s why nobody does the whole run of Cats. At a certain point, you’re like, ‘Really, I’m going to go out there in f***ing tights again?’”