Jon Stewart said goodbye to his fans Thursday, after 16 years on the Comedy Central network's The Daily Show, which established him as America's foremost satirist of politicians and the media.
Stewart, 52, announced last winter that he was getting restless and wanted to move on. Trevor Noah will replace him as host next month.
Armed with a razor-sharp wit and a research team adept at finding video evidence of hypocrisy or unintentional comedy among the nation's establishment, Stewart turned a sleepy basic cable entertainment show into a powerful cultural platform. In the process, the show won 22 Emmy wards.
A long line of people hoping to get in to the last taping gathered outside the Comedy Central studio on Manhattan's West Side Thursday. First in line was Chad Lance, a 27-year-old musician from Philadelphia who said he arrived at 2:30 a.m.
"No one knows who's going to come, no one knows what's going to happen,'' Lance said. "I think this is going to be one of the most exciting TV tapings ever.''
Other fans on line reflected on Stewart's retirement and legacy.
“It’s kind of sad, actually," said Majid Lahijani. "He has a certain charisma, a certain way of reaching across and getting his message across to people. I’m not sure other people can do that.”
Genevieve Tang said, "What he’s done is so important it must go on, with or without him.”
No Specific Plans
Stewart's no-holds-barred style meant that neither conservatives nor liberals were spared. Although he insisted he wasn't a real newsman, Stewart’s humor and heart infused his work and inspired journalists around the globe.
The program's new host, Trevor Noah, attended the finale’s taping, but for many, the show will always belong to Stewart.
Stewart hasn’t yet confirmed plans for his post-Daily Show life.
“I don’t have any specific plans," he told viewers on an earlier show. "I've got a lot of ideas, 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.”
Stewart directed the 2014 film Rosewater, adapted from a memoir by Canadian-Iranian journalist Maziar Bahari. But the soon-to-be-former host of The Daily Show has not ruled out returning to the world of stand-up comedy, where he started.
Stewart's fans will be forced to navigate the first presidential election since 1996 without his commentary, a loss that felt particularly acute with the first Republican candidates' debate taking place less than three hours after the taping of his final show. The Daily Show airs at 11 p.m. on the U.S. East Coast.
It's the third major farewell for a late-night television personality in eight months. Stewart's Comedy Central colleague Stephen Colbert ended The Colbert Report in December. David Letterman signed off from CBS in May, to be replaced by Colbert.
Also contributing VOA's Daniella Schrier