Comedy Central has confirmed that at the end of this year Jon Stewart will no longer be the host of The Daily Show. Stewart broke the news earlier this evening during a taping of the show (which quickly made the rounds on social media).
"For the better part of the last two decades, we have had the incredible honor and privilege of working with Jon Stewart," the statement from the cable network reads. "His comedic brilliance has been 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."
Last November, Stewart sat down for an interview with Christiane Amanpour at CNN (a network he'd made a career out of skewering), where he said that he had moved out of his home state of New York to a location which he "can't disclose. I got a whole thing going on." Later Amanpour noted that Stewart's contract with Comedy Central was about to expire, and perhaps he was looking for other artistic avenues, citing his directorial debut last year with Rosewater, a film about the interrogation and torture of a journalist in Iran. "Will we see you as host of The Daily Show for the next presidential election?" Amanpour asked.
"That I can't tell you," was his response.
Rumors abounded in 2014 that Stewart was offered the role of hosting America's longest-running television program, Meet the Press, when NBC was looking for a replacement for David Gregory. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Stewart confirmed that he was offered the job, but brushed it off: "My guess is they were casting as wide and as weird a net as they could. I'm sure part of them was thinking, 'Why don't we just make it a variety show?'"
Stewart has often downplayed his role in political journalism, often emphasizing that he is just a comedian. So it is unlikely that he'll pursue a formal, sober gig with any large network. Though after a 16-year* run on The Daily Show, where he launched the careers of Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert, John Oliver, and Larry Wilmore, fought for the rights of 9/11 first responders, virtually shoved CNN's Crossfire off the air, won countless awards, and forever altered the role of humor in modern political discourse, it's fair to say that Jon Stewart has earned himself a much deserved break from the spotlight.
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*Update 2/11: An earlier version of this article misstated the number of years Stewart had been host of The Daily Show.