Early in the evening on February 10, the newsfeed alerts on everybody’s phones suddenly began beeping and chiming with a breaking story: Jon Stewart was leaving The Daily Show. I happened to be within watching range of a TV at the time, so I turned it on and it seemed like every station was announcing the news. Jon Stewart, Jon Stewart, Jon Stewart. They were running clips from the early days of the show; pundits were pontificating. It was a whole thing. And then it came time for The Daily Show itself … the one where he was going to make this announcement. Or, rather, the one where he had already made this announcement to the live studio audience several hours earlier.

That live studio audience had spread the news after the taping, the networks had picked it up, and by the time...

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