Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart visit "The Daily Show with...

Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart visit "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" #JonVoyage on Aug. 6, 2015 in Manhattan. Credit: Getty Images / Brad Barket

With heavy heart -- and lots of it -- Jon Stewart said farewell to "The Daily Show" Thursday night after 16 years of political satire.

"Hey, guess what?! I've got big news! This is it! This is the final episode!" Stewart, 52, exclaimed, beginning his final minutes behind the anchor desk.

Without missing a beat, he launched the show's in-depth coverage of the Republican debate in Cleveland -- still more than two hours away from the start of the 6:30 p.m. taping. That chronological disparity did not deter correspondents Jessica Williams, Hasan Minhaj and Jordan Klepper from reporting what "happened": Jeb Bush and Scott Walker did just fine -- and Donald Trump exposed himself.

They were joined in quick succession by virtually all the show's former correspondents, many of whom have gone on to stardom, among them film stars Steve Carell and Ed Helms, new "Late Show" host Stephen Colbert and satirical news-show hosts John Oliver and Larry Wilmore. "Nightly Show" host Wilmore complained that his 11:30 p.m. show "got bumped" for the extra-length "Daily Show" finale. "Black shows matter, Jon," he mock-scolded.

Also commenting remotely was previous "Daily Show" host Craig Kilborn, who told Stewart: "I knew you were going to run this thing into the ground."

A parade of taped cameos showed goodbyes from politicians such as Hillary Rodham Clinton, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Secretary of State John Kerry, and Sens. Chuck Schumer and John McCain. Also weighing in were CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer and Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly, a frequent Stewart nemesis.

In heartfelt appreciation of his staff and crew, Stewart told the audience: "There are days where you come in and the confusion and the fog is everywhere and the people here never fail to have my back in those moments. . . . This is the most beautiful place I've ever been and I'll never have that again."

In a taped segment, he gave a handheld camera, first-person tour of the offices and studio, giving comedic introductions to three or four dozen people rapidly passing by. Martin Scorsese was in a room yelling at Stewart for "ripping off" a scene from his movie "Goodfellas."

Stewart ended with an extended monologue, the title of which can't be given in a family newspaper, but involved wariness of misinformation from politicians, corporations and others. He then thanked the audience, saying: "This show isn't ending. We're merely taking a small pause in the conversation. A conversation which, by the way, I have hogged, and I apologize for that. So here it is, my moment of Zen."

And that moment meant a performance by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. They played "Land of Hope and Dreams," a song Stewart had specifically requested.

The show ended with a segue into the finale of "Born to Run" as crew, staff and performers flooded the stage to dance. Finally, Stewart took the mic and gave his ultimate final words, telling the audience simply: "Thank you. Good night."

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