An end of an era approaches.
Back in February, late-night megastar Jon Stewart announced he would be ending his 16-year tenure as the host of one of the longest running and most acclaimed comedy shows of all time. Under his reign, The Daily Show amassed a truly staggering pile of awards, including two Peabody’s and ten consecutive Emmy Awards for Outstanding Comedy Series between 2003 and 2012.
To put it mildly, these are damn big shoes to fill. Fans have been speculating for weeks as to who will sit behind the Daily Show desk after Stewart takes his final bow. Everyone from Samantha Bee to Bassem Youssef were floated as possible replacements, but on Monday we found out an even newer face is going to be replacing old man Stewart.
Meet Trevor Noah – a multi-ethnic South African hodgepodge of comedic brilliance, who’s going to be mocking Fox News for our entertainment in the near future. The Daily Show’s always been big on race issues and diversity; in Noah they’ve got the perfect voice for these concerns.
This, of course, should not discount the fact that Noah boasts some truly staggering comedic chops.
During an incredible stand-up set from 2013, Noah lampoons apartheid, institutional racism, and the black American identity in eight minutes flat – while also demonstrating an incredible facility with accents, timing, and impressions.
Mocking the unmockable is the Daily Show’s whole thing, and in Trevor Noah they’ve found a perfect mouthpiece. He’s multi-lingual, well-traveled, handsome, and has a light, conversational touch that should gel with the Daily Show’s style beautifully.
In short, it’s almost too good to be true.
Noah’s announcement as Stewart’s replacement caused a bit of a backlash when, drumroll please, some offensive tweets were found on his Twitter feed. Gasp!
Seriously, it’s probably a good sign that all we have to be mad about with this guy are a few bad fat jokes from 2009. This kind of scrutiny always reveals a few bad jokes when a comedian scores a high-profile gig, and The Daily Show’s progressive leanings probably earned Noah a bit more ire than he was due.
But we live in the age where you can tweet every mean, drunk, half-baked brain-dropping that comes to you on the toilet. Noah’s feed is not uniquely bad, and Comedy Central isn’t canning him.
The more daunting obstacle staring down Noah is competition. News-based satire is in a bit of a Golden Age right now: John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight is chewing through the ratings, ex-Daily Show alum Larry Wilmore filled the inimitable Mr. Stephen Colbert’s timeslot with The Nightly Show, and soon yet another Daily Show scion, Samantha Bee, will score her own program on TBS. In a world full of recent talk show shakeups, this is simultaneously exciting and overwhelming.
The Daily Show spawned a new industry. Colbert kicked off the trend with the now-classic Colbert Report program, but with Oliver, Wilmore, and Bee expanding the fake news empire, The Daily Show sometimes feels a little less…special than it used to. Don’t get me wrong, nothing will ever replace Mr. Stewart in our hearts, but with the recent departure of Stephen Colbert’s fine program, we’re all a little bit wary of change.
So maybe it’s a good sign that The Daily Show has tapped a comedian who can find the line, approach it, and nimbly step right over. If there’s one thing The Daily Show is NOT about, it’s apathy. The show thrives on shocking us with our own hypocrisy, and Noah’s the man for the job.
For instance, and if we’re being totally honest here, there are jokes that a black African can say that a white presenter simply couldn’t touch. Hell, Noah’s even part Jewish. They don’t have to toss out too much of Stewart’s old shtick.
Noah’s a child of apartheid, a man who lived with approximately zero advantages apart from nice cheekbones. Noah doesn’t talk about inequality; he’s lived it. Watching him tear stuffy old white dudes a new one is going to feel awfully cathartic.
This is a gamble. The Daily Show will retain its superb staff of writers and its incredible slew of correspondents, but without Jon Stewart at the center, it’s just never going to be the same.
But we couldn’t ask for a better successor than Noah. He’s likable, but he can turn on the sass and outrage when the mood calls for it. He’s not afraid to be off-color on Twitter and in real life. Noah lived through state-mandated segregation that nearly tore his family apart and came out smiling, he knows how to tackle serious issues with a self-effacing flair.
And if a million stoned teenagers are going to be looking to The Daily Show to tell them what the crazy people are up to, you could do a lot worse than Trevor Noah.
(Featured Image courtesy of Comedy Central)