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Now that 2016 is nearing its end and election coverage has died down (incrementally), it's finally easy to once again stop mourning the absence of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert giving satire a good name on Comedy Central. Stewart left The Daily Show in 2015 and Colbert left The Colbert Report in 2014, but it has been revealed both hosts were as close as possible to leaving the network back in 2012. Perhaps not surprisingly, it was all about contract negotiations.
This wasn't an issue of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert holding out for avaricious reasons, though, and the way things sound, the fault lies at the feet of former Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman. As it's described in The Daily Show (The Book): An Oral History by Chris Smith (via Variety), contract conversations became particularly hellacious in the summer of 2012 for both Stewart, who was getting some negative feedback over cementing a timeframe when he could take a hiatus from hosting to go and direct Rosewater, and Colbert, whose deal was reportedly not in the comedian's favor, despite his rising popularity. And here's when it temporarily all fell apart.
James Dixon, agent to both Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, then worked it so the contract negotiations were for both hosts as one unit, rather than keeping them separated. (Bros are gonna bro.) And when not even that could lead to happy resolutions, Stewart and Colbert told Dixon that they quit. Yes, it got so bad that they actually did quit. Here's how the former Daily Show frontman described how they saw Dauman.
I don't think Philippe in any way saw what we do as special. As far as he was concerned the star is the real estate, and whether or not we are the ones who carved out that real estate and made it valuable is not important to them.
Their permanent vacation from Comedy Central was not so permanent, at least not at that time. Apparently, Philippe reached back out to Jon Stewart to get the negotiation talks going again, and it wasn't such a struggle for Stewart and Colbert after that. One would probably be safe to assume this incident was on their minds when mulling over the thought of leaving whenever they did. Thank goodness, as it led to years of more excellence from The Daily Show and The Colbert Report.