"Doug Herzog and Michelle Gainless of Comedy Central gave me an incredible opportunity 17 years ago to pilot this wonderful franchise," Stewart said during Tuesday's show. "And 17 years is the longest I have ever in my life held a job, by 16 years and five months... But in my heart I know it is time for someone else to have that opportunity."
Stewart held off on breaking the news until the end of the episode, following an interview with David Axelrod. "You know, I'm not going to be here and try and sum up what this place has meant to me over the years. I couldn't do that," he said. "And we've got plenty of time... I'm not going anywhere tomorrow. But this show doesn't deserve an even slightly restless host, and neither do you."
Stewart took over hosting duties of The Daily Show in 1999 when he replaced Craig Kilborn. Many of The Daily Show correspondents who served during Stewart's tenure, including Stephen Colbert, Larry Wilmore and Steve Carell, have gone on to parlay their success into starring in their own shows for Comedy Central and elsewhere. It was only after John Oliver, a longtime correspondent on the series, filled in for Stewart for 12 weeks in 2013 that HBO gave the Brit his own series, Last Week Tonight.
It has not yet been decided when Stewart will step down, nor what he plans on doing after, but it's possible the host will say goodbye as early as this summer. "I'm up in September, might be around then. Might be December, might be July, we're still working out details," Stewart said. I don't have any specific plans. Got a lot of ideas, got a lot of things in my head. I'm going to have dinner on a school night with my family, who I have heard, from multiple sources, are lovely people."
When one audience member shouted out, "We love you, Jon!" Stewart did his best to keep his emotions in check. "Arg, what is this fluid? What are these feelings? Frankenstein angry!" he joked.
However, Stewart ended the night with a heartfelt thank you to the many fans who have watched him for the better part of two decades. "It's been an absolute privilege. It's been the honor of my professional life. I thank you for watching it, for hate-watching it. Whatever reason you were tuning in for, you get in this business with the idea that maybe you have a point of view and something to express. And to receive feedback from that is the greatest feeling I could ask for and I thank you."