Comedy Central announced tonight that Jon Stewart would leave his post at “The Daily Show” after 16 years at the helm.
The satirical news program with occasional glimpses of brilliance was at its best during the Bush years, when Stewart became more than a comedian and was seen as a trusted news source for the American public.
He got a taste of what life would be like post-“Daily Show” when he took three months off to shoot his directorial debut “Rosewater” about a journalist who was jailed by the Iranian government.
Late last year, Stewart spoke with NPR’s Terry Gross about what he’s been wrestling with as a performer who loves the job that made him famous but has a desire for something more:
You know, it’s always difficult. 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. 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.
… I think there’s a tendency when something’s been on the air for a really long time to dismiss it only because of its familiarity. And it’s hard to retain that first blush of love that you have when you first find something that takes you, whether it be, you know, artistic, material or music or other things. But I’m still really proud of the work we do day in and day out and hold up some of the bits that we’ve done recently to anything that we have done in the history of the program.
And so that is the difficulty — when do you decide that even though it’s this place of great comfort and you feel like you’re plugged into it like you’ve never been plugged into anything else that you’ve ever done, you know … there are other considerations of family or even in the sense of just not wanting to be on television all the time. You know, you can’t just stay in the same place because it feels like you’ve built a nice house there. And that’s really the thing that I struggle with. And it is unclear to me.
Stewart said in the interview that that when he finally decided he would quit, he would not regret the decision and come back for more. He likened the situation to the “Seinfeld” scene where George Costanza won back his ex-girlfriend Susan and the two got engaged:
And he was all excited, and he did it, and she took him back. And there’s that scene of him walking up the stairs with her to the apartment, and the minute he starts walking up the stairs he goes, “What have I done? This is the worst thing I’ve ever done. I’ve got to get out of this relationship.”
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, 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.
Julie Zeveloff and Armin Rosen contributed to this story.
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