The man who created an unlikely source of news and analysis with his biting and free-wheeling humor on The Daily Show - Jon Stewart - is all set to leave as host this year, Comedy Central announced on Tuesday.
His departure was announced by Comedy Central President Michele Ganeless after Stewart, host of the show since 1999, broke the news to the audience at Tuesday's taping in New York. "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," Ganeless said in a statement.
She called Stewart a "comic genius." He will remain as host until later this year, she said, but did not specify a date. His departure is a second big blow for Comedy Central: Another star, Stephen Colbert, left The Colbert Report last year to take over from CBS late-night host David Letterman when he retires in May.
The Stewart and Colbert shows created templates for a comedic form that offered laughs along with trenchant political and social satire. Authors and politicians were as common as Hollywood celebrities on their shows.
Stewart replaced Craig Kilborn roughly 15 years ago as host of the late-night cable program, which has won Peabody and Emmy awards. Stewart said on Tuesday's broadcast, "17 years is the longest I have ever in my life held a job, by 16 years and five months. The upshot there being I am a terrible employee. But in my heart, I know it is time for someone else to have that opportunity."
The Daily Show averages slightly more than 1 million viewers a night, a far smaller audience than his late-night competition on broadcast networks, but Stewart became disproportionately influential in U.S. politics and culture. His lampooning of elected and would-be office-holders, broadcast journalists and other public figures, especially on the conservative end of the spectrum, has made him a darling of the political left.
Young adult viewers form the core of his fan base. In a 2004 poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, 21 percent of respondents aged 18 to 29 cited "The Daily Show" as a regular source of political news.
A two-time Oscar host who has branched out into the movie industry, Stewart made his directorial debut with the film Rosewater last year.
Beginning his show business career in stand-up comedy in New York, Stewart took his satirical humor to MTV in 1993, where he hosted The Jon Stewart Show. The Daily Show has been a launchpad for several comedians besides Colbert, among them Steve Carell and John Oliver.
Stewart took a several months-long hiatus in 2013 to direct Rosewater, a film about an Iranian-born journalist who was imprisoned for 118 days in Tehran and accused of being a spy. The Comedy Central statement did not indicate what his plans were after leaving.
With inputs from AP and Reuters