(CNN) – Jon Stewart, whose wit defined “The Daily Show” for more than 15 years, will sign off the iconic Comedy Central program later this year, the cable channel said on Tuesday.
Stewart is expected to speak about his decision to step down on Tuesday night’s program, which he is taping on Tuesday evening.
“Tonight! For once, you wanna stay through the interview,” the official Twitter feed of the program said shortly after the channel confirmed the news.
In a farewell statement, Michelle Ganeless, the president of the channel, called Stewart “a comic genius, generous with his time and talent,” and said the host “will always be a part of the Comedy Central family.”
“The Daily Show” is Comedy Central’s single most important brand. And Ganeless immediately signaled that it’s not going anywhere.
Her statement said the show “has become a cultural touchstone for millions of fans and an unparalleled platform for political comedy that will endure for years to come.”
Stewart’s announcement comes two months after his longtime late-night companion on the channel, Stephen Colbert, ended the “Colbert Report.” Colbert will take over CBS’s “The Late Show” this fall.
Colbert’s successor Larry Wilmore started a new program, “The Nightly Show,” that now follows “The Daily Show.”
Comedy Central had no immediate comment on when exactly Stewart will sign off, but it could happen as soon as this summer.
The news was met with a mix of shock and even sadness as many on social media braced for a satirical future without Stewart.
“Shocked & sad to see the man who gave me my big break on @TheDailyShow is ready to hang it up,” tweeted actor Josh Gad. “Can’t wait to see what’s next!”
Others noticed that TV isn’t just losing a great late night comedy host, but also an irreplaceable media critic.
“No way to put a figure on his value to [Comedy Central],” tweeted former New York Times TV reporter Bill Carter. “He literally put that network on map personally. Truly irreplaceable.”
The news was blitzed on social media, with over 130,000 tweets sent about Stewart’s departure between 6:30 and 8 pm, according to Twitter.
Stewart replaced Craig Kilborn as the host of the 11 p.m. news satire in 1999.
Over the years he influenced the worlds of news and comedy with his wickedly funny monologues and probing interviews, and he sometimes showed that the two worlds aren’t as far apart as they might seem.
Stewart was credited with educating his fan base — which includes many millennials — about the news, even if only intentionally.
Under Stewart’s leadership, “The Daily Show” won 20 Emmys, making it one of the most acclaimed shows on TV.
When Stewart signed his most recent contract, it came as a surprise to some observers, given his long tenure at the program and his publicly expressed interest in trying other things. He recently directed his first feature film.
In a series of interviews to promote his film, “Rosewater,” in November, Stewart acknowledged that he had been contemplating his future.
When a New York magazine reporter asked whether the 2016 presidential election might motivate Stewart to stay at “The Daily Show,” Stewart said yes.
But he added, “Part of the thing to remember is this is not the only process by which you can work material, and sometimes it’s more important to step back and reconfigure a conversation than continue the same conversation because you know how to do it.”