The New York Times reported today that Jon Stewart will relinquish The Daily Show throne to Trevor Noah, the satirical news program's recent recruit, whose droll monologues have simultaneously won over the Comedy Central studio audiences and flown over their heads. A slew of Daily Show fans have tweeted their bewilderment about Noah's election, but he's a solid choice for the gig.
The choice seemed like a no-brainer for anyone who watches the show. The South African comedian has both the gift of gab and a formidable intellect, while possessing a firsthand grasp of living among both races in America and the world. Noah should bring worldly charm, cultural savvy and GQ good looks to the fake news program.
Noah, 31, represents another personality shift for The Daily Show, which saw two other hosts with sharply contrasting demeanors gain popularity. The Daily Show began 19 years ago with the smart-ass slacker Craig Kilborn and gave way to a more self-deprecating comedian in Jon Stewart, who achieved a celebrity status no one could have anticipated back in 1999, when Stewart took the reins and DS fans mourned the loss of Kilborn and his famous "5 Questions."
After a period of initial awkwardness and fan pessimism, Stewart came into his own, shepherding the late-night basic cable program to increased popularity and the Emmy Awards podium. Stewart is capable of affable modesty while administering acerbic tongue lashings, and he never seemed to lose touch with the fact that The Daily Show is indeed a comedy show and not actual news (though most fans admit that it's their main source for political news and world affairs).
Noah, like Stewart, doesn't have an out-of-control ego and has demonstrated a knack for both getting to the heart of the matter and celebrating its absurdity. He may not possess the confident goofiness of his boss —yet — but then again Stewart surprised us of his capabilities, as so might the new guy.
According to the Times story, Noah grew up in Soweto, "the son of a black Xhosa mother and a white Swiss father, whose union was illegal during the apartheid era." Thusly, he has joked that he was “born a crime” because interracial marriage and interracial sex were illegal under apartheid. With that societally imposed stigma lurking in his subconscious, Noah brings an edginess to the show that makes our favorite mensch a little milquetoast by comparison (a contrast that is played up in Stewart and Noah's shtick below).
The enthusiasm of the Daily Show's new hire has already been deflated by revelations of tweets insulting Jewish people and "fat chicks" that Noah posted in his younger years.
Still, Noah will have even greater challenges winning hearts and minds. Kilborn bonded with us for a couple of years. Stewart grew up with us during his 16 years on the show. Newbie Noah has some mighty big shoes to fill.
The host-elect has two assets that could help the show veer in an edgier more socially conscious direction: Noah's firsthand experience with racial discrimination and his international perspective, coming from the largest and most poorly understood continent in the world. With recent protests over police violence in the U.S. and the indoctrination of African youth in Islamic extremist factions like Boko Haram, his viewpoint may bring a new relevancy to The Daily Show.
"Sometimes Africa feels like the Vegas of Islamic Terror," Noah said. "What happens in Africa stays in Africa." Noah said, musing on the lopsided reactions to atrocities in France vs. Nigeria. The segment below illustrates that Noah is a searing commentator who could contribute both wit and urgency to the next chapter of The Daily Show.
Let's hope he is as funny as Stewart, too.