The Internets are awash today in digital tears about Jon Stewart’s announcement that he is leaving The Daily Show.
Even people like Yahoo’s interim CEO Ross Levinsohn took to Facebook to say that someone should pay Stewart “$100 million per year to relaunch his show as a ‘direct-to-consumer’ product,” according to Business Insider, Levinsohn even citing Howard Stern’s move to Sirius as an example.
Levinsohn’s Facebook post is gone, but the overall public sentiment remains the same: People are upset that Stewart is leaving the show he has helmed since 1999.
Except me. And here’s why.
I once attended a taping a few years back. Before the show, Stewart and Stephen Colbert chatted a little back and forth between their studios in front of their crowds. The topic? How busy and tired they were — Colbert’s house just had its basement flood and he was lamenting that, too. I was blown away by how stressed and tired Stewart looked. When the cameras came on, though, all that was gone, and he energetically greeted the crowd and put on the show.
Sixteen years is a long time to be doing the same damn thing.
Unlike many of his TV counterparts, Stewart is smart. He’s not just an entertainer, and he didn’t get into this to ride the golden coattails to retirement. Remember when he announced his hiatus in 2013 to do his serious film Rosewater, based on a journalist/activist Maziar Bahari’s memoir Then They Came for Me about his imprisonment in Iran? I remember my social feeds being filled of the same “Oh, no! How can he do this?” sentiment then.
There are several arguments as to why sticking around The Daily Show isn’t good for Stewart. One? I don’t think he’s particularly motivated by money. He’s made plenty of it over the years. I once saw him walking in NYC’s East Village with his family on a casual Sunday afternoon eating ice cream, decked out in a simple gray T-shirt and jeans, and he couldn’t have looked happier. I have the feeling that this is a guy who values time and creative projects over cash.
I also think he has maxed out creatively on the show and needs new opportunities to stretch his mental muscles. So letting go of something you’re adored for that you’ve really nailed is pretty brave. It means you’re not choosing the easy path — you’re trying to grow as a human being.
A lifelong fan of Stewart, I can’t wait to see what he’s going to do next. Maybe just walk around New York with his family and eat ice cream for a while? I could get behind that.
Now go take another look at his greatest hits.