Jon Stewart to leave The Daily Show later this year

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It seems you can only make light of the wicked ways of the world for so long before it starts to get to you. At least that’s one explanation for today’s sudden bombshell that Jon Stewart, who has held down the anchor spot on the satirical news outlet The Daily Show for nearly 16 years, is stepping down later this year.

In a brief message titled “Thank You Jon,” Comedy Central confirmed the news today on a Twitter post reportedly written by Comedy Central President Michele Ganeless:

“For the better part of the last two decades, I have had the incredible honor and privilege of working with Jon Stewart. 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. 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. 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.”

Stewart took over the show when original host, Craig Kilborn, stepped down for a 5-year run as host of CBS’ Late, Late Show. Just where Stewart will go next is anyone’s guess. The man who has become a household name for his handling of current events with equal parts levity and legitimacy, left no forwarding address, simply telling his audience during the taping of today’s show that he will be leaving once his contract expires by the end of this year, according to USA Today.

With Stephen Colbert priming to take over one of the top spots in Late Night following the retirement of another stalwart of the industry, David Letterman, Comedy Central’s evening lineup suddenly looks barren, indeed.

No one could replace the incomparable Colbert when it comes to inhabiting a completely sarcastic version of a GOP-alligned talking head for The Colbert Report, but can The Daily Show live on without Jon? With his quick wit, tireless work ethic, and passion for human decency in all things politics and world affairs, Stewart’s chair won’t be an easy one to fill, to say the least. The future of the indelible show, from which so many stars (including Colbert) have emerged, is suddenly cast into shadow.

We’ll update this story as more details emerge.

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