Jon Stewart is signing off

February 11, 2015 16:02:26 Posted at February 11, 2015 16:02:26
Sarah Posted by Sarah
Wenn, Splash, Ray Tamarra/ Getty Images

Jon Stewart has hosted The Daily Show for sixteen years. During that time he’s evolved that show from a celebrity-driven late night talk show to an actual news source, seen three presidents come and go, reported on two wars, the worst terrorist attack in US history, and countless national tragedies. Through it all, no matter how grim the world has looked, Jon Stewart has made us laugh. But now he’s leaving. Yesterday, Stewart told the studio audience at the Daily Show taping that he would be retiring. Comedy Central then confirmed the news on Twitter. Stewart will continue anchoring The Daily Show until later this year. His exact date of retirement hasn’t been announced yet, and there’s no word on his future plans, but in 2015 Jon Stewart’s reign at The Daily Show will end.

The timing is interesting in that Stewart was approached last year about other hosting gigs, including actual news show Meet the Press, and though he turned those jobs down this is about when he’d have to exit to take one of those jobs. So even if moving onto another hosting position isn’t in the cards, it looks like Stewart was already looking for an exit strategy last year. But of course, last year was Stephen Colbert’s huge news that he’s taking over for David Letterman. Stewart publicly endorsed Colbert for the job, so maybe, even though he was planning to leave, too, he didn’t want to step on Colbert’s moment. Because the writing on the wall has become ever more legible over the last couple years.

If you’re a frequent watcher of the show you’ve probably noticed that ever since coming back from his hiatus in 2013, Stewart has just seemed—tired. His retirement is surprising because he’s become such a steady presence in pop culture, but it’s also not surprising. Sixteen years is a long time, and Stewart obviously loved making Rosewater. I won’t be surprised if his next move is to make another movie.

No matter what Stewart does next, he leaves an indelible legacy in comedy. He is undeniably a comedic genius, the closest thing we’ve had to Mark Twain since Mark Twain. He didn’t invent fake news parody but he elevated it into an actual genre, turning The Daily Show into an institution and paving the way for the likes of The Colbert Report, John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight and Larry Willmore’s The Nightly Show. And that’s to say nothing of the talent he’s nurtured over the years, including Ed Helms, Wyatt Cenac, Rob Riggle, and Rachel Harris.

And he leaves enormous shoes to fill. Comedy Central’s statement indicates that The Daily Show will continue when Stewart retires, so the question then is who will replace him. Current contributor Jessica Williams is a great choice—she’s funny and sharp as hell. Kristen Schaal would also be good. Perhaps the most interesting option, though, is Egyptian comedian Bassem Youssef, often called the “Jon Stewart of Egypt”. Due to the political unrest in Egypt, he had to end his show, Al Bernameg, but he’s just been added as The Daily Show’s Middle East correspondent. That would be kind of a neat passing of the torch, no? To see Jon Stewart give his chair to the man he inspired, and in the doing hand Youssef a bigger, louder microphone than the one he had to give up. It would be a fitting tribute to Stewart’s legacy.


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