Trevor Noah is No Jon Stewart — And Shouldn’t Try to Be
The Daily Show with Trevor Noah is now underway, after months of cautious optimism and anticipation. While not much has changed in terms of the writing and overall production, it does have the feeling of when Bewitchedswitched out Darrins. Same show, different lead. Noah has taken on a Herculean task, as Jon Stewart is a beloved national treasure whose humor is matched only by his curiosity and intellect. He gave The Daily Show its tone and made it an institution. New Darrin needs a moment to find his footing and his own voice. Stewart trusted him with the show, and so should we.
I saw Noah for the first time two years ago at Hannibal Buress’s show at the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn. He reminded me of Eddie Izzard. He wasn’t just funny, he was a keen observer. Noah had been in New York only briefly, but somehow managed to “get” us instantly. Not in a pandering crowdwork kind of way, but with the eye of an outsider who notices everything. The instincts, the tone, the object work and voices, they all hit. It’s my hope that as Noah becomes more comfortable with his new role, and bring some of that “outsider looking in” perspective to The Daily Show.
[Noah] can offer us something the other comics cannot, which is the experience of a young black South African living in America and watching our various parades of absurdity go by.
His pitch-perfect lampoon of New Yorkers could easily extend to observations about our country, culture, and politicians. Some think of Noah as an odd choice, given all the comics on the scene. But he can offer us something the other comics cannot, which is the experience of a young black South African living in America and watching our various parades of absurdity go by. He won’t be Stewart, and he shouldn’t try to be. If Noah succeeds, it will be because he eventually starts playing to his own strengths and unique experience.
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart was one of the most influential forces in shaping my comedic taste. He took over for Craig Kilborn when I was in the 8th grade, and for the next 16 years I felt, as Noah said last night, as if Stewart were “ [my] refuge… and political dad.” I fell in love with irony because of Stephen Colbert correspondence piece, and during the Bush Administration I felt my rage turn into laughter. Stewart helped me make sense of a world and a time that wasn’t making a lot of sense to me, through the use of terrible puns, Goodfellas references, and interviews that were funny/serious/poignant/ridiculous. I love Jon Stewart for what he did for me during high school, college, and beyond. I think I’ll love Trevor Noah, too, but in different ways and for different reasons.
Comedy Central doesn’t need to keep reassuring us that nothing has changed. There’s a new host in town, and he will make the show his own, eventually. For my advice for watching The Daily Show, meet me at Camera 3: don’t compare Darrins, guys, they’re two different people.
Former executive producer of The Daily Show, Josh Lieb describes the struggles and joys of keeping daily political comedy fresh.
Lori Chandler is a writer and comedian living in Brooklyn, NY, which is the most unoriginal sentence she has ever written. You can look at her silly drawings on Tumblr, Rad Drawings, or read her silly tweets @LilBoodleChild. Enough about her, she says: how are you?
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