After 16 years anchoring The Daily Show, host Jon Stewart is stepping down, surprising his unsuspecting audience by announcing his departure during Tuesday night's episode.
The 52-year-old – who hosts the satirical news bulletin four times a week – looked close to tears as he told viewers, "In my heart I know it is time for someone else to have that opportunity."
Thanking Presidents of Comedy Central, Doug Herzog and Michele Ganeless, Stewart joked: "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."
The news was later confirmed by Comedy Central who added in a statement, "For the better part of the last two decades, we have had the incredible honour and privilege of working with Jon Stewart.
"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 many years to come."
The details of Stewart's departure are yet to be decided – "I'm up in September. It might be around then, it might be December, it might be July" – and he's yet to reveal what he'll be doing next: "I don't have specific plans – I've got a lot of ideas. I'm going to have dinner, on a school night, with my family who, I have heard from multiple sources, are lovely people."
Looking emotional, he added: "I'm not going to try and sum up what this place has meant to me over the years. I couldn't do that, and I'm not going anywhere tomorrow. But this show doesn't deserve an even slightly restless host, and neither do you. I don't think I'm going to miss being on television every day. I'm going to miss coming here every day. I love the people here. They are the best – creative and collaborative and kind. I love them and respect them so much.
"It's been an absolute privilege – the honour of my professional life. I thank you for watching it, for hate-watching it – whatever reason you were tuning in. You get in this business with the idea that maybe you have a point of view and something to express, and maybe you receive feedback. That is the greatest feeling you can ask for and I thank you."
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Stewart first began hosting The Daily Show in 1999, taking over from Craig Kilborn who left to present The Late, Late Show. He has since won 19 Emmys in his capacity as a writer and producer. The news of his imminent departure is the latest blow for Comedy Central which bid farewell to Stephen Colbert last year after he quit his satirical series The Colbert Report to take over from David Letterman.
Watch Jon's announcement in full below: