Jon Stewart signs off ‘The Daily Show’ with a ‘love fest’

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NEW YORK -- Here it is, Jon Stewart's final moment of zen.

On Thursday evening Stewart recorded his very last edition of "The Daily Show," more than 16 years after taking over the satirical newscast and turning it into an American institution.

Stewart was joined by some of the people that made the show special over the years. Former correspondents Stephen Colbert, John Oliver, Ed Helms, Steve Carell, Olivia Munn, and many others returned to say farewell.

One of Stewart's all-time favorite musical acts, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, were on hand for a send-off performance. Springsteen played "Land of Hopes and Dreams" and the end part of "Born to Run."

After the taping ended around 7:45 p.m., audience members sounded giddy about the chance to see Stewart sign off.

Zahra Meherali called it a "love-fest" in the best possible way, describing how the correspondents showered Stewart with affection. "They were articulating what we wished we could all articulate" as fans, Meherali said.

During the taping, Stewart recognized his dozens of staff members -- partly by taking a long on-camera walk through the office -- and his wife and children.

There were also videotaped farewells -- some fond, some not -- from A-listers like Hillary Clinton, John McCain, and Bill O'Reilly (who called Stewart a "quitter").

Peter Knox, who was in the audience, said Stewart addressed the camera with a "parting sermon on recognizing the B.S. in everything."

The finale will air at 11 p.m. on Comedy Central.

Thursday's taping capped a week of reflective "Daily Show" episodes that included visits from fellow comedians Amy Schumer, Denis Leary and Louis C.K.

Comedy Central called it the "Jon Voyage" tour, and on Thursday ran a marathon of classic Stewart episodes. The channel also took out a full-page ad in The New York Times to thank him.

One of President Obama's Twitter accounts paid tribute to Stewart by quoting what the president said to Stewart a few weeks ago: "You've been a great gift to the country."

And the anchorman's beloved baseball team, the New York Mets, sent along its congratulations via Twitter too: "Thank you for 16 Amazin' years."

For Comedy Central President Michele Ganeless, who was in the audience on Thursday evening, the moment was bittersweet as her channel lost a legend.

But in an interview earlier this week, Ganeless said Stewart has had no second thoughts about leaving the anchor desk.

"He's ready. He's ready," she said. "One of the nice things about this moment is that he's doing this on his terms, on his timeline, when he feels like he's done whatever it was he set out to do 17 years ago."

He's tired of the daily grind and ready for a break, she said, but "I know for sure we have not seen the last of Jon Stewart."