Jon Stewart will step down as host of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show later this year. The comedian, who has hosted his fake news program since 1999, announced the move in a taping of tonight’s show.
Stewart’s departure will leave Comedy Central, which is owned by Viacom, with an entirely new lineup in the 11 o’clock hour that it once dominated. Stephen Colbert ended The Colbert Report, which used to follow The Daily Show, late last year in anticipation of taking over CBS’s Late Show when David Letterman retires.
Late-night comedy was long dominated by the major broadcast networks in the United States before a few cable channels made a run for the timeslot. Stewart led The Daily Show to ratings that sometimes eclipsed stalwarts like Letterman on CBS and Jay Leno on NBC, particularly among younger viewers whom advertisers covet.
Stewart became an icon of American comedy during the first decade of the 2000s, comforting Americans after 9/11 and ridiculing the presidency of George W. Bush when it ventured into the absurd. The premise of his show, a fake newscast, also lampooned the 24-hour cable news channels—like CNN, which he famously despised.
There was no immediate word on who might replace Stewart. The show predates him and will likely continue. It would seem to be a good opportunity to move beyond the white males who have long dominated late-night television in the US. Colbert’s timeslot was filled by The Nightly Show, hosted by Larry Wilmore, who is black.
Though Jimmy Fallon has helped revive NBC’s late-night ratings, the format seems generally threatened, along with much of traditional TV. Meanwhile, encouraging new distribution models for comedy are emerging on the perimeter: Louis CK has successfully sold videos of his performances directly to fans over the internet, and Chelsea Handler is planning a three-times-a-week show for Netflix in 2016.