Jon Stewart Is Back on 'The Daily Show'! Why Did He Leave in the First Place?

Jamie Lerner - Author

Jan. 25 2024, Published 8:37 a.m. ET

Jon Stewart on 'The Daily Show' set
Source: Comedy Central

Finally, the 2024 election season will have a voice of reason thanks to Jon Stewart returning to The Daily Show. On Jan. 24, 2024, various outlets broke the news that Jon would come back to his home show, even prompting a New York Times alert. Throughout the 16 years that he hosted The Daily Show, Jon was considered the voice of liberal America.

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When he left in 2015, just before the 2016 election cycle in which Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton in a seemingly inexplicable upset, Jon left the world clamoring for his voice. But it was time for him to move on to other projects. Now that he’s back, however, people are wondering why he decided to leave The Daily Show in the first place.

Jon Stewart on 'The Daily Show'
Source: Comedy Central
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Jon Stewart decided to leave ‘The Daily Show’ because he wasn’t getting the same satisfaction from it anymore.

By the time we got to 2015, Jon had been hosting The Daily Show for 16 years. He took over from Craig Kilborn in 1999 and transformed the show from a little-watched Comedy Central satire news program into a comedic program so truthful that it became an actual source of news for many of its viewers.

Jon’s strong political opinions and tough interview style, even criticizing President Obama during his first term, allowed viewers to connect emotionally and intellectually with many of Jon’s very logical points. Throughout his run, he won the show 24 Emmys, as well as other forms of recognition. But imagine having the same job for 16 years with no upward mobility possible?! Perhaps for someone with little ambition or creativity, that would be fine, but not for Jon.

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Jon Stewart smiles as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell walks by at the Ohio Clock Corridor in the Capitol on July 23, 2019.
Source: Getty Images

Upon the announcement of his 2015 exit, Jon told The Guardian, “It’s not like I thought the show wasn’t working anymore, or that I didn’t know how to do it. It was more, ‘Yup, it’s working. But I’m not getting the same satisfaction.’” But like any long-term relationship that was once good, sometimes it’s nice to go back to it.

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“These things are cyclical,” he continued. “You have moments of dissatisfaction, and then you come out of it and it’s OK. But the cycles become longer and maybe more entrenched, and that’s when you realize, ‘OK, I’m on the back side of it now.’” So that was his cue to leave.

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Not only that, but Jon received some criticism for leaving just before an election cycle, especially one that would change America’s political landscape forever. “I’d covered an election four times, and it didn’t appear that there was going to be anything wildly different about this one,” he explained. Of course, it was different, which Jon has since acknowledged. Perhaps that’s part of why he’s coming back.

At the time, however, Jon's children were entering their pre-teens, and he wanted to spend more time with his family. He also started working on his film, Rosewater, about an Iranian prisoner who he has since befriended. Now that Jon's children are college-age, it makes sense that he's ready to return in some capacity to The Daily Show.

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Jon, Nathan, Maggie, and Tracey Stewart attend the 2015 Farm Sanctuary Gala held at The Plaza Hotel on Oct. 24, 2015
Source: Getty Images

When Jon first left, he wanted to find new ways to do what he loved. “Honestly, it was a combination of the limitations of my brain and a format that is geared towards following an increasingly redundant process, which is our political process,” he said. “I was just thinking, ‘Are there other ways to skin this cat?’ And, beyond that, it would be nice to be home when my little elves get home from school, occasionally.”

Jon's little elves aren't so little anymore, and while it may be fun to reinvent the wheel, the cat still needs to be skinned. So now, he’s back and better than ever.

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