Moral Low Ground


Jon Stewart Leaving ‘The Daily Show’

President Barack Obama appeared as Jon Stewart's guest on The Daily Show five times. (White House photo)

President Barack Obama appeared as Jon Stewart’s guest on The Daily Show five times. (White House photo)

The host of the most popular late-night comedy news program in history told a live studio audience Tuesday night that he is stepping down sometime “later this year.”

Jon Stewart, who has hosted Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart since 1999, broke the bombshell news during the taping of Tuesday night’s show in New York, A.V. Club first reported. The announcement aired at the end of the episode, with Stewart acknowledging that much of his television audience had probably already heard the news.

“We’re… still working out the details,” Stewart said, adding that “[it] might be when I’m up [for a contract] in September, might be December, might be July. And I don’t have a specific plan. I have a lot of ideas in my head.”

Stewart added that “this show doesn’t deserve an even slightly restless host, and neither do you.”

Stewart’s impending departure was also announced in a statement tweeted by Comedy Central:

“For the better part of the last two decades, we 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. He is a comic genius, generous with his time and talent, and will always be a part of the Comedy Central family.”

Under Stewart’s stewardship, The Daily Show became a cultural force that for many people, especially young liberals, served as a primary source for news as well as for entertainment. A 2010 study found that more young people got their news from The Daily Show than from the New York Times, the nation’s newspaper of record.

Dripping with satire and (nearly) equally critical of both sides of the political aisle, Stewart’s nightly take on the leading news stories of the day continue to be must-see TV in hundreds of thousands of American households. Actors, musicians, athletes, authors and politicians were among those who sat down at his interview desk over 16 seasons, with everyone from Barack Obama (five appearances — including two as president) and John McCain to Bruce Springsteen and Kurt Vonnegut appearing on the show.

Stewart, 52, took over The Daily Show from Craig Kilborn. During his tenure, the show has won 19 Emmy awards, including 10 straight wins for Outstanding Variety Show — a record broken last December by Daily Show spinoff The Colbert Report before it went off the air, as host Stephen Colbert prepares for his next job as David Letterman’s replacement hosting The Late Show on CBS.

Like Colbert, Academy Award-nominated actor Steve Carrell, who soared to fame as the lead actor on NBC’s The Office, also got his start as a Daily Show correspondent, as did John Oliver, host of HBO’s Last Week Tonight.

Speculation about Stewart’s future on The Daily Show has been swirling since the host took a summer hiatus in 2013 to direct Rosewater, his first feature film.

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