The Washington Post.
Um … who? That was the question for a lot of people when Comedy Central told the New York Times that Trevor Noah will replace Jon Stewart as host of “The Daily Show.” Here’s what we know so far:
– What’s his story?
Noah is a 31-year-old comedian, born and raised in Soweto in South Africa to a black African mother and Swiss father. He was brought up during apartheid, meaning his parents had to hide their relationship. That difficult situation is just one touchy subject the comedian has translated into big laughs during stand-up specials.
– What are his credentials?
Noah has been honing his comedic skills over the last few years, focusing on a stand-up act that landed him on “The Tonight Show” in 2012 and “Late Show With David Letterman” the following year. He has also been on “The Daily Show” three times since December, holding forth on Ebola, Boko Haram and police brutality, among other topics. He memorably played a game with Stewart called Spot the Africa, where the host had to look at two photographs and guess which one depicted Africa and which showed the U.S.
Noah also has a lot of hosting experience in South Africa, including a radio show, a gossip television show and a sports talk show, not to mention the South African Music Awards. And he was a contestant on a South African celebrity dance competition show, “Strictly Come Dancing.” (Which begs the question: Are celebrity dance competition shows totally different in South Africa? Aren’t they supposed to signal the twilight of a contestant’s career?)
– Is he funny?
Sometimes! Noah’s “Daily Show” appearances felt a little stilted and very scripted. Although, to be fair, three appearances is hardly enough time to let him get into his groove and improvise.
You can see that Noah is in his element doing stand-up, though. His sets can be both very funny and insightful, key elements for a “Daily Show” host. He does a lot of observational comedy, poking fun at the way airport announcements are done in Africa, for example.
More importantly for his future American audience, he does some great fish-out-of-water stories about what it’s like for a South African to spend time in the States, including a meditation on the way American radio stations censor hip-hop songs. (“I can’t handle the cussing, but keep the misogyny.”)
He also did funny bit from his “That’s Racist” tour about a confusing exchange with a taco truck proprietor, which also happens to show off Noah’s incredible talent for accents. (He also speaks multiple languages.)
– What can we expect from him as a host?
One of Stewart’s great talents is putting a spotlight on the inanity of American politics, but Noah’s arrival could bring with it a broader focus for current events. And given how crowded the market is getting, that’s probably smart. With John Oliver, Larry Wilmore and even Jimmy Kimmel edu-taining on the subjects of net neutrality, racism in fraternities and vaccines, “Daily Show” has a chance to change its niche and focus on the more overlooked international stories.
Noah’s method is also vastly different from Stewart’s. Where Stewart’s stock and trade is shouty faux-rage (or sometimes real rage) and incredulity, Noah has a much more deadpan delivery. Of course, that could change as he takes over and finds his hosting voice.
– How are people taking the news?
As Noah told the New York Times, “We live in a world where some people still say Beyoncé can’t sing … Clearly I’m not immune to that.” And just as he anticipated, it’s been a mixed bag thus far. Some are thrilled that the trend of diversity on television is continuing. Others lament that yet another man has been hired for a late-night hosting gig.