Jon Stewart is leaving 'The Daily Show'

Jon Stewart, who helped turn “The Daily Show” into a cultural force, is leaving the anchor’s chair over 16 years after taking over for Craig Kilbourn, in January of 1999. Comedy Central confirmed the news on Twitter:

According to the AV Club, Stewart announced that he was leaving the show at the beginning of the taping for tonight’s episode. Stewart will continue hosting the show until “later this year.”

“The Daily Show” became appointment television with Stewart as host, and he emerged as both a leading political satirist and one of toughest interviewers in newsmedia. In 2008, the New York Times’ Michiko Kakutani wondered if Stewart was in fact “the most trusted man in America.” But he had turned to other projects outside of the show recently, directing his first feature film last year.

In a statement, Michele Ganeless, the president of Comedy Central, says she expects the show can outlast Stewart. “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,” Ganeless wrote in a statement, according to Politico. “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.”

It’s unclear what Stewart will do after leaving “The Daily Show.” But he has a number of other high-profile credits outside of the show. In addition to directing “Rosewater” last year, a dramatic film about the detention of Iranian-Canadian journalist Maziar Bahari during Iran’s election protests in 2009, Stewart starred as a version of himself in the critically acclaimed “The Larry Sanders Show” in the mid-90s. And one of Stewarts most memorable moments came outside of the context of “The Daily Show,” when he appeared on “Crossfire” in 2004 and sparred with host Tucker Carlson on cable news’s allegedly malign impact on American political discourse.

Stewart also emerged as a forceful advocate for Bassem Youssef, an Egyptian satirist curtailed by Egypt’s post-Arab Spring rulers. Stewart has deep cultural reach, interviewing and directing talents, and a number of serious issues with which he’s associated. He’s a nearly singular media and cultural figure, and it will be interesting to see what he does now that he’s left a show that he’s anchored since the Clinton administration.

In November, Stewart speculated to NPR’s Terry Gross about what it would be like to leave “The Daily Show,” and implied that the idea held some appeal for him: “I do feel like I don’t know that there will ever be anything that I will ever be as well suited for as this show,” Stewart said. “That being said, I think there are moments when you realise that that’s not enough anymore, or that maybe it’s time for some discomfort.”

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