Jon Stewart is to step down later this year as host of The Daily Show after nearly two decades spent satirizing – and influencing – U.S. politics. Stewart, 52, announced his departure in an emotional address at the end of Tuesday's show on February 10, saying his 16-year run in the hot seat was enough.
“In my heart I know it is time for someone else,” Stewart, at times close to tears, told the audience. He was still working out details of his exit, which could come anytime between July and December, he said. “I don’t have any specific plans. Got a lot of ideas. I got a lot of things in my head.”
Stewart hinted at a yearning for a change of pace after the treadmill of hosting a broadcast four times a week. “I’m going to have dinner on a school night with my family, who I have heard from multiple sources are lovely people. This show doesn’t deserve an even slightly restless host and neither do you.”
Born Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz in New Jersey, in 1962, Stewart was a stand-up comic who landed a slot at the famed Comedy Cellar. His first break came in 1989 with cable TV’s Short Attention Span Theatre, before he forged a friendship with David Letterman.
By 1993 Stewart was hosting his own MTV show, but when that show was cancelled in 1995 it seemed he had peaked. When Craig Kilborn left The Daily Show in 1998 he was replaced by Stewart as the face of what rapidly became the most talked about comedy show in America. The show established Stewart as a singular force in U.S. political and media life.
The comedian, who serves as executive producer, has garnered about 2.5 million viewers per night with biting satire that entertained, provoked and at times shaped the political agenda – often with progressives echoing his talking points and conservatives denouncing them.
Stewart's version is currently the second longest-running program on Comedy Central after South Park, and has risen to critical acclaim. It has received two Peabody Awards for its coverage of the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections. Between 2001 and 2012, it has been awarded 18 Primetime Emmy Awards in the categories of Outstanding Variety, Music, or Comedy Series (winner for 10 consecutive years from 2003 to 2012) and Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music, or Comedy Program, and a further seven nominations. The show has also been honored by GLAAD, the Television Critics Association, and the Satellite Awards. America (The Book): A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction, the 2004 bestseller written by Stewart and the writing staff of The Daily Show, was recognized by Publishers Weekly as its "Book of the Year", and its abridged audiobook edition received the 2005 Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album.
The program is popular among young audiences, with organizations such as the Pew Research Center suggesting that 80% of regular viewers are between 18 and 49, and that 10% of the audience watch the show for its news headlines, 2% for in-depth reporting, and 43% for entertainment, compared with 64% who watch CNN for the news headlines.
The comedian took time off in 2013 to make his film writing and directorial debut, Rosewater, a political drama about Maziar Bahari, a journalist accused of spying and imprisoned in Iran. Critics acclaimed it, prompting the Los Angeles Times to joke that Stewart “may have a promising back-up career”. Stewart also emerged as a forceful proponent for Bassem Youssef, an Egyptian satirist curtailed by Egypt's post-Arab Spring rulers.
In its own announcement, Comedy Central, which has aired the show since 1996, said Stewart would step down later this year. Michele Ganeless, Comedy Central’s president, hailed Stewart as a comic genius. “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.”
In the mid-1990s, Stewart launched his own production company, Busboy Productions, naming the company in reference to his previous job as a busboy. After Stewart's success as host and producer of The Daily Show, he revived Busboy Productions with Daily Show producers Ben Karlin and Rich Korson.
In 2005, Comedy Central reached an agreement with Busboy in which Comedy Central would provide financial backing for the production company. Comedy Central has a first-look agreement on all projects, after which Busboy is free to shop them to other networks. The deal spawned the Daily Show spin-off The Colbert Report and its replacement The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore. Other projects include the sitcom pilot Three Strikes, the documentary Sportsfan, the series Important Things with Demetri Martin, and the film The Donor.
» The Atlantic: The House That Jon Stewart Built
» New York Times in 2008: "Is Jon Stewart the Most Trusted Man in America?"
» New York Magazine in 2014: Jon Stewart In Conversation