29 September 2015
Replacing the US’s “most trusted man in news”, Jon Stewart, was always going to be tough, but from first impressions, it looks like Trevor Noah is going to be perfect as host of the popular American satirical news programme, The Daily Show.
Noah joins other prominent South African performers in the international spotlight, including actors Charlize Theron and Arnold Vosloo and comedians Loyiso Gola and David Kibuuka, who is also a writer for The Daily Show.
But Noah’s debut on one of the biggest US TV news shows has by far the highest profile, with daily coverage and scrutiny in the American media and online in the lead-up to the first show, including cover stories in Vanity Fair, GQ and Rolling Stone magazines. Noah’s unique brand of humour and strong South African identity is winning fans in the US.
According to tweets, reviews and analysis from US news outlets this morning, Noah has won the hearts, minds and laughs of the show’s fans and critics alike with a skilful and funny first show.
— The Daily Show (@TheDailyShow) September 29, 2015
For months in the run-up to Noah’s debut, even before the much-loved outgoing host completed his 17 years as the US’s hippest and most outspoken news commentator, the American media were understandably apprehensive about this unknown South African comedian taking over one of television’s most sacred and popular institutions.
Just the day before Noah’s first show, Salon writer Sophie McClennen warned that Noah’s decision to focus on satirising and lampooning new digital media and explore a more global context (similar to that of John Oliver’s hugely popular Last Week Tonight current affairs show) may lose some fans. She pointed out that it may also affect the show’s legacy of informing the American audience of its media wars at home, particularly that of the influence and power wielded by the Fox News Network, one of Stewart’s most targeted nemeses.
“When Stewart wasn’t targeting the disinformation machine that is Fox News, he was going after politicians,” McClennen argued. “Noah, in contrast, has made a joke of his confusion over the US political process. It’s not the sort of hard-hitting satire that uses irony to encourage critical thinking. Thus far we have no evidence that Noah cares about getting his audience not just to laugh, but also to think.”
Trevor Noah is changing “The Daily Show’: Here are the biggest adjustments fans will have to make http://t.co/olbG0EWgLt
— Salon.com (@Salon) September 29, 2015
This criticism aside, it seems that in the wake of Noah’s first completed show this morning, consensus is that he nailed it.
From the opening monologue, Noah, it seemed, had audiences in the palm of his hand, with genuine likability and an authentic gravitas, but most importantly, the unique brand of humour that South Africans have grown to love as we’ve all followed his gradual, hard-earned rise to fame. Over these years, we’ve watched him go from bit-actor on the soap opera Isidingo to a South African and international comedy circuit regular and “chief entertainment officer” for a well- known South African cellphone company. Noah has come a long way and has worked hard to find himself as the voice and face of this generation’s most influential news programme.
“There were two things I always wanted, growing up on the dusty streets of South Africa,” Noah began his opening monologue, “an indoor toilet and a job as host for The Daily Show. and now I have both, and I am quite comfortable with one of them.”
He paid tribute to Stewart, comparing him to “America’s dad”, before adding: “Now America has a new stepdad, and he’s black.” Noah hoped he wouldn’t disappoint Stewart, and vowed to not make him look like “a crazy old rich dude who left his inheritance to some random kid from Africa”. Finally, Noah told viewers old and new that he and his team would continue the show’s long tradition of waging “war on bulls**t”.
Watch the full monologue:
Variety magazine found Noah “looking more at ease and in command than he ever did as a correspondent, exhibiting a self-effacing streak about replacing Jon Stewart and a facility for selling jokes at the desk. While Stewart left big shoes to fill, Noah’s first at bat suggests the format remains durable enough to let him find his footing,” it wrote.
“The South African comic charmed, scored belly laughs,” said entertainment website The Wrap.
USA Today called Noah’s smile and humour “infectious”. And quelling viewers’ fears that he would never be able to fit into the cultural significance left by Stewart, the America news website also stressed that “any new host would need some time to catch up and take over, and newcomer Noah is no exception”.
Meanwhile, fans – South African and international, famous and not so famous, new and old – took to Twitter to praise Noah and the ability and style of his first show.
All hail America’s new black stepdad, Trevor Noah, who is absolutely slaying with pitch perfect comedic timing on The #DailyShow.
— Avery Harris (@MrAveryAvenue) September 29, 2015
— Suzanne Brenner (@prowriting) September 29, 2015
Noah’s first show as host of The Daily Show will be broadcast on South African television tonight (29 September 2015) at 9pm on Comedy Central, DStv channel 122.