It’s hard to fathom that a broadcast network suspending its evening news anchor for six month without pay would fail to qualify as the day’s biggest media story, but that’s what happened yesterday: NBC’s surprising Brian Williams news was overshadowed by the even more shocking declaration that Jon Stewart will step down from The Daily Show with Jon Stewart when his contract expires later this year.
The loss will be profound, and last night many stunned fans were questioning whether The Daily Show could continue on without him. But as I wrote at Quartz,
It can, it will—Comedy Central has confirmed that it will bring in a new host—and most importantly, it must. The Daily Show has grown into something much bigger than any one person, even Stewart, and after 16 years with him at the helm, it’s more than capable of thriving without him.
After all, there was a Daily Show before Jon Stewart (the original host was Craig Kilborn). And while Stewart has innovated late-night during the past 16 years even more than David Letterman ever did, the show no longer needs him to thrive, as John Oliver proved two summers ago:
When he decided to take the summer of 2013 off to direct Rosewater, Daily Show fans were wary of how his fill-in, Oliver, would fare. Well, those fears subsided by the first episode. Oliver didn’t just keep Stewart’s seat warm: he lit it on fire, with dozens of memorable moments. Suddenly, the prospect of a Stewart-less Daily Show didn’t seem so scary.
There’s much more in my Quartz piece, including a look back at how Stewart built the Daily Show, after much early trial and error, into the incisive show we all know and love, and my picks for who should be tapped to fill his Daily Show chair.