Guy Nobody Has Heard of Replacing Jon Stewart as Daily Show Host

Trevor Noah will be the next host of The Daily Show. Who's Trevor Noah? Exactly.

trevor-noah

Trevor Noah will be the next host of The Daily Show. Who’s Trevor Noah? Exactly.

NYT (“Trevor Noah to Succeed Jon Stewart on ‘The Daily Show‘”):

In December, Trevor Noah, a 31-year-old comedian, made his debut as an on-air contributor on “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart,” offering his outsider’s perspective, as a biracial South African, on the United States.

“I never thought I’d be more afraid of police in America than in South Africa,” he said with a smile. “It kind of makes me a little nostalgic for the old days, back home.”

Now, after only three appearances on that Comedy Central show, Mr. Noah has gotten a huge and unexpected promotion. On Monday, Comedy Central will announce that Mr. Noah has been chosen as the new host of “The Daily Show,” succeeding Mr. Stewart after he steps down later this year.

While I’m a fairly regular view of the show, I don’t believe I’ve seen any of Noah’s three segments. They must have been pretty awesome.

The appointment of Mr. Noah, a newcomer to American television, promises to add youthful vitality and international perspective to “The Daily Show.” It puts a nonwhite performer at the head of this flagship Comedy Central franchise, and one who comes with Mr. Stewart’s endorsement.

“I’m thrilled for the show and for Trevor,” Mr. Stewart said in a statement. “He’s a tremendous comic and talent that we’ve loved working with.” Mr. Stewart added that he “may rejoin as a correspondent just to be a part of it!!!”

But the decision also invites questions about Mr. Noah’s experience and visibility (or lack thereof), and why the network did not choose a woman to crack the all-male club of late-night television hosts.

Michele Ganeless, the Comedy Central president, said in an interview: “We talked to women. We talked to men. We found in Trevor the best person for the job.”

Ms. Ganeless added: “You don’t hope to find the next Jon Stewart – there is no next Jon Stewart. So, our goal was to find someone who brings something really exciting and new and different.”

There has been a lot of speculation about the new host, with a lot of speculation around current cast members. Aasif Mandvi would have been my choice, with John Oliver and Larry Wilmore having already moved on to host their own shows. There has also been something of a groundswell for Jessica Williams, who I don’t particularly care for; she’s extremely young and here selection would have put an African American woman into the role. Regardless, Noah is an interesting choice:

In his standup routines, Mr. Noah comes across as a self-assured polyglot with an international perspective.

As he joked in a 2013 comedy set on “Late Show With David Letterman,” Mr. Noah said that he did not like being introduced as a comedian from Africa, as if he represented the entire continent. “They make it sound like a guy in leopard skin’s going to come running on the stage,” he said.

Mr. Noah said in his phone interview, “I didn’t live a normal life – I grew up in a country that wasn’t normal.”

He grew up in Soweto, the son of a black Xhosa mother and a white Swiss father, whose union was illegal during the apartheid era. “My mother had to be very clandestine about who my father was,” Mr. Noah said. “He couldn’t be on my birth certificate.”

By the time he started performing stand-up in his 20s, Mr. Noah said he had long been taught that “speaking freely about anything, as a person of color, was considered treason.”

His globetrotting spirit (and ability to speak six languages) set him apart in comedy, and he performed widely in the United States between 2010 and 2012, eventually coming to Mr. Stewart’s attention about two years ago.

When Mr. Stewart announced his plans to depart “The Daily Show,” Ms. Ganeless said that Comedy Central quickly drew up “a shortlist” of possible successors “and Trevor checked off every box on that list and then some.”

“He brings such a unique worldview and a deep understanding of human nature, which makes his comedy so insightful,” she added. “He’s truly a student of the world.”

Ultimately, hosting the show–at least if it retains its current format–requires much more than comedic chops. The anchor has to be quick on his feet and form a connection with the audience. Being in someone’s living room four nights a week is different than doing a few bits here and there. We’ll see if Noah can pull that off.

FILED UNDER: Popular Culture
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. JohnMcC says:

    My first reaction is: Wow! Grew up in fatherless in Soweto and now is an international media figure and speaks six languages!? Amazing.

    Second reaction, as someone who knows the Daily Show mostly from excerpts and links found here and there is: Does this mean that their emphasis on our American politics will be less now that Mr Stewart is retiring?

  2. Modulo Myself says:

    Comedy Central is not the Washington Post op-ed page or Fox News. The people who run it have an actual eye for talent. They picked up Broad City, which is probably the funniest show out there. I’m fairly certain they hired Noah for concrete reasons, rather than the fact that he’s someone’s nephew or sucks d–k and mouths lines exactly like a conservative should.

  3. Ben says:

    I’m actually extremely happy they didn’t go with Jones, Bee and Williams, none of whom I found particularly funny or insightful in their own right. Oliver would have always been the best choice, but they missed their chance on that one. Wilmore was always meh, and he’s really struggling on his own. Mandvi is really the only other one that I would have considered, but I can’t kill this choice.

    I think most people forget how much of a non-entity Stewart was when he first took over this show. He was a comic that people really only knew because of an old show on MTV that no one ever watched, and a couple bit roles in movies like Half Baked.

    I’m definitely willing to give this guy a shot.

  4. michael reynolds says:

    I saw his segments. He has charisma and I think he can wear well despite being very smart. But I’m a long way from convinced. Intelligence is vital but so is a sort of internal balance that keeps you on-track. We’ll see.

    I thought Larry Wilmore was a bad choice and given the show he’s produced so far I think I was right. Wilmore’s show is an even worse version of Bill Maher’s show. Granted Wilmore’s not as instantly unlikable as Maher, but he’s also not as funny. The show is low energy and seemed weary right out of the gate.

  5. bookdragon says:

    You should probably amend this to ‘Guy No One in US Has Heard Of’

    As to experience, Noah is well-known in South Africa (I’ve nto seen it but one of my office mates is originally from South Africa) for hosting his own late night talk show. If a biracial guy can pull that off in South Africa, I am more than willing to say he may be a great successor to Stewart.

    Plus, I’ve seen all 3 of Noah’s appearances on the Daily Show and after each my reaction was ‘Wow, I hope we see more of this guy!’ Looks like I’ll get my wish.

  6. reid says:

    No idea about this guy, but I wanted to say that I’ve started to warm up to Larry Wilmore and his show. I think he’s starting to get more comfortable in it, and he is quite funny. Some of the segments, though, like “keeping it 100” can be tossed.

  7. Neil Hudelson says:

    While I haven’t been too impressed by the three appearances Noah has had on the Daily Show, all three of his appearances struck me simply as someone who isn’t used to being in front of the camera in that particular format–the part stand-up, part skit, part conversation schtick that often occurs. I think with a bit of practice he’ll smooth out.

    @reid

    I agree. I didn’t like Wilmore at first, but I thought I’d give him a few episodes. While he isn’t must-watch TV for me (frankly, neither was Colbert), I think he’s on a good path and the show has gotten increasingly better.

    That said, I would’ve rather have seen Mandvi, or perhaps someone outside the show (Tina Fey), but oh well. So far Comedy Central have picked two pretty good hosts (Kilborn only looks bad when we have the hindsight of what Stewart would become), so I’ll give this guy a very generous shot.

    I did listen to him on WTF before (I think) he joined TDS. The guy really does have a fascinating life story.

  8. Tillman says:

    Having seen his spots, I’m certainly curious as to how the Daily Show with Trevor Noah will work out.

    We’ll continue having a host with two first names which remains a state of affairs that grates on me. I’m certain when I finally lose it, I’ll just rock back and forth in a cell complaining about all the people I know who have two first names.

    I’m warming up to Wilmore’s shift-down in terms of style, just wish he’d stop explaining the segments. He needs to balance out his roundtables with more comedians or more cursing or something. His St. Patrick’s Day roundtable with Kathleen Madigan and Colin Quinn was actually worth watching the whole thing, and the Keep It 100 for it was a fairly good one. I didn’t know New York had a Muslim Parade, for instance.

    Also, nice photo. Like an ethnic Stephen Colbert.

  9. Pinky says:

    I love the picture as it appears on the main page (at least the way it does with my browser): mostly a blank space with shoulder and an ear. I only clicked on the article to see if it looked the same on this page.

  10. Andre Kenji says:

    @JohnMcC: I think that´s part of CC´s bet. The Daily Show is popular in English speaking countries, but in most countries people simply don´t understand the jokes.

  11. al-Ameda says:

    @James:

    Aasif Mandvi would have been my choice

    I completely agree.
    Assif has always been a favorite of mine – his take on R. Kelly was of Hall of Fame quality.

    I wish Trevor well – Jon is a tough act to follow.

  12. Andre Kenji says:

    @michael reynolds: I like the Keep at a 100 bit(In part because it would be fun to see the panelists of Meet the Press being tested like that), but Larry´s show could be broadcast on MSNBC. And that´s not a compliment.

  13. Andre Kenji says:

    @Tillman: Again: the problem is that Larry Wilmore´s program could be shown on MSNBC and no one would note the difference.

  14. DrDaveT says:

    @Tillman:

    We’ll continue having a host with two first names which remains a state of affairs that grates on me. I’m certain when I finally lose it, I’ll just rock back and forth in a cell complaining about all the people I know who have two first names.

    I can’t remember which humorist it was who wrote, back in the ’70s, something along the lines of:

    James Earl Ray. Lee Harvey Oswald. Sirhan Sirhan. See the pattern? Somebody better lock up that prick Woody Allen before he hurts somebody.

  15. John D'Geek says:

    I love this guy! He’s on Youtube, for those who haven’t seen him before — I’m particularly fond of his bit on traveling to America so he “could finally be black” (I spent a year-and-a-half in South Africa, so I “got it” right away). Even in his more Liberal bits, he comes across as someone who both gets it and cares about everyone involved in “it”. It never came across as condescending and judgmental — and that takes talent in today’s world of comedy.

    I think he’ll do a great job.

  16. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Can only say that his story has me looking forward to it. Should be interesting at the very least.

  17. Robert in SF says:

    I think that perhaps they are counting on Trevor Noah to bring in not only youth (surely the largest market for this show?), but also an outsider’s perspective, to de-emphasize any sort of cynicism that Jon Stewart’s reign may have developed.

    Seeing how someone new (who you wouldn’t expect to have significant experience with today’s political and pop culture landscape) views our society might help open the show up some to new ways of looking at things and new ways of commenting on them comedically.

    Also, I hope perhaps he will bring back a level of “professionalism” to the conduct of the show? Maybe some more wide-eyed wonder at it all with inquisitive commentary, instead of relying so much on mugging for the camera and using pop-culture references to Johnny Carson as a go-to…

    I am not a fan of The Nightly Show…Larry doesn’t seem to have a clear theme or perspective for his own voice (or at least not consistent enough for me to pick up on it). And please stop having comedians on the panel. None so far mesh well with the question/answer approach they use on the show for the topics…the comedians just seem to rely on shocking or absurd statements to make people laugh…and while it’s all pushing agendas on shows like this, the comedians are the *worst* at pivoting to their pre-planned wry commentary and observations…their talent is monologue not dialogue, so they don’t mesh well when their timing has to be forced into what would be an unnatural rhythm for them

    All in all, a 1/2 hour is not enough time for this format without some strict focus, without Larry being the only comedian on the show and let the guests be there to be commentators and contributors.

  18. Just 'nutha' ig'rant cracker says:

    Jessica Williams, who I don’t particularly care for; she’s extremely young and here selection would have put an African American woman into the role.

    That didn’t come out very well. Care to mansplain? Whitesplain? Both?

  19. grumpy realist says:

    OT, but this is heresy. Really.

  20. @Ben:

    Wilmore was always meh, and he’s really struggling on his own.

    Wilmore is currently averaging 1.2 million viewers per night, which is actually better than the Colbert Report was getting last year, and ratings have been trending up since the show began.

    Just because you don’t like him doesn’t mean he’s “struggling”.

  21. michael reynolds says:

    @grumpy realist:

    It’s a brave new world, my friend. The center will not hold. Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling! Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes…The dead rising from the grave! Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together… mass hysteria!

  22. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @grumpy realist: KILL THE HERETICS!!!!

  23. Tyrell says:

    One obvious choice is Larry King. Other considerations should be Berman.

  24. pylon says:

    Remember when a relatively unknown guy took over from Craig Kilborn?

  25. Tillman says:

    @Stormy Dragon: That’s what I’d heard. Wilmore has an audience, and it’s for certain the audience will dwindle a bit and then pick up again in a year or two with the elections. I didn’t watch the Daily Show or the Colbert Report on any sort of schedule, and I for sure didn’t catch Colbert as often as Stewart.

    I mean, I get the comparison between Maher and Wilmore, but you have to pay someone with money to see Maher. Wilmore, you only have to pay someone time in commercials. That’s a much wider audience. That, and Maher is just really an asshole to the point where he’s not funny enough to compensate. Wilmore can only get funnier or more awkward, but Maher seems to have dug in on being an asshole.

    Maher hasn’t reached Limbaugh levels of assholery, but only because his chosen medium has less reach. He’d say it had something to do with being concerned about facts, and I’d say that’s characteristic of his assholery.

  26. Ben says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Ok, sorry, you’re right. What I should have said was “I haven’t enjoyed his program, and the people I’ve discussed it with have seemed to feel similarly or, at best, ambivalent”

    You are correct that ratings-wise, he’s doing fine.

  27. al-Ameda says:

    @Tyrell:

    One obvious choice is Larry King. Other considerations should be Berman.

    On any given evening those 2 guys suck up more oxygen in any one half-hour show, than do the 1.8 million residents of Manhattan in a 24 hour cycle..

  28. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Tyrell:

    You do realize that the underlying premise of The Daily Show is humor, right?

  29. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    I have to agree with Ben here. Wilmore isn’t that interesting or compelling as a host. He’s not awful, by any means, but I’m not going to go out of my way not to miss his show.

  30. Tyrell says:

    @HarvardLaw92: Well, Chris Berman does say some funny things. K. Grammar would be a logical choice.

  31. Crusty Dem says:

    @HarvardLaw92: @Neil Hudelson:

    I find Wilmore interesting, but the show is a bit of a gamble every episode. 22 minutes for a single topic on a nightly comedy show seems unsustainable. When the topic and guests match up its pretty damn good. When they don’t its a disaster. They had an episode on vaccinations and no one on the panel knew a goddamn thing. It was horrifying and felt far too much like Bill Maher’s show. But the Bill Cosby and ferguson episodes? Outstanding. Still, I’d have given Colbert’s spot to Mandvi.

    I think Noah is an inspired choice. He has the “anchor look”, he can be very dry, and appears to be brilliant. His outsider take on American culture is something I’m really looking forward to..

  32. Mikey says:

    I’m not familiar with him at all. We’ll see how things go given his propensity for Tweets that could be seen as offensive to some people.