Jon Stewart announced today that he will be leaving The Daily Show after 16 years as host. Although he has yet to confirm his final appearance, the comedian will be stepping down later this year. Comedy Central confirmed the news via Twitter along with a statement.
"For the better part of the last two decades, we have had the incredible honor and privilege of working with Jon Stewart," the statement read. "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."
Stewart joined the program in 1999, and, with the election of President George W. Bush two years later, cultivated a persona that put a liberal spin on news without losing its sense of humor. Under Stewart's tenure, The Daily Show, which launched in 1996 with host Craig Kilborn, transformed from spoof news series into one of the most respected political satire sources on television.
"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," the statement continued. "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 March 2013, Stewart took a vacation from hosting for 12 weeks to direct the movie Rosewater. In October, the host confirmed that NBC had approached him about taking over its ailing Meet the Press. Stewart said he never seriously considered the gig.
The news of Stewart's departure comes months after Daily Show alumnus, Stephen Colbert – who hosted the humorously conservative The Colbert Report after the show – announced he would be taking over The Late Show when David Letterman steps down. His first show will air on September 8th.
Stewart has not publicly announced what his plans for the future are. The Daily Show Twitter offered, "Tonight! For once, you wanna stay through the interview."
In an interview with Rolling Stone about Rosewater, Stewart joked that he had been hosting the show for 53 years. When asked if he was planning on sticking around for the 2020 elections, he said, "Oh, God. I don't look ahead like that. If I did, I'd lose my mind. But there's obviously a shelf life for me. There's only so many times people can see me doing the same shit without going, 'We want something fresh.' That's just a natural progression."
When Rolling Stone asked if his show would work on network television, he said it would. "I don't view networks being substantively different than cable, though I may have felt that 15 years ago," he said. "When people say, 'How's he going to make a 12:30 show work at 11:30?' you're like, 'Huh?' It's not like you can have a masturbating bear at 12:30, but at 11:30 the bear has to quietly play with itself. Real estate has become less important. What's important now is content."