He said, "17 years is the longest I have ever in my life held a job by 16 years and five months. I am a terrible employee, but in my heart I know it's time for someone else to have that opportunity."
It's fair to say that nobody saw it coming when Jon Stewart broke the news to his studio audience.
Mary Murphy, Senior Lecturer of the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, told INSIDE EDITION, "When Jon Stewart said he was leaving The Daily Show, it was the biggest shock of late night TV. Jon Stewart is America’s number one media critic. He's an essential voice."
Even one of Stewart’s favorite targets, Megyn Kelly of Fox News, paid tribute to the funnyman. She said, "Just last night, Stewart was having fun at our expense!"
The Daily Show has won 19 Emmys since Stewart took over in 1999 as "The Most Trusted Name In Fake News.”
Stewart is credited with boosting the careers of Stephen Colbert, and Oscar-nominee Steve Carell.
But the comedian could also be serious, as he was in his first broadcast after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. The view from his apartment was once the Twin Towers.
In his tearful tribute, he said, "The view from the South of Manhattan is now the Statue of Liberty. You can't beat that."
So, who will fill Stewart’s shoes? Sarah Silverman is on the list of contenders, along with the married couple Samantha Bee and Jason Jones, who are current regulars on The Daily Show.
There's buzz about one man being replaced by two of the funniest women around.
Mary Murphy mentioned, "How about Tina Fey and Amy Poehler?"
The 52-year-old Stewart says he could wrap it up on The Daily Show as early as July.
In his admission to leaving, he said, "I don't have specific plans, got a lot of ideas, got a lot of things in my head. I am going to have dinner on a school night with my family, who I've heard from multiple sources are lovely people."