Idiot Box: “The Daily Show With Trevor Noah”

“The Daily Show With Trevor Noah” On Comedy Central

Devin D. O'Leary
3 min read
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It’s generally not a good idea to review a restaurant in its first month or so of operation. You need to give the owners time to work out the kinks. It’s been just about two months since South African comedian Trevor Noah took on the enviable/unenviable task of hosting Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” after the departure of longtime figurehead Jon Stewart. Like assuming the “Tonight Show” desk after Johnny Carson retired, it’s a job everyone in Hollywood probably wanted but was seriously afraid to tackle. With early eight weeks of hosting under his belt, however, it’s time to give Noah a critical once-over to see how the rookie is doing.

The good news is, Noah comes in at a time when media criticism—comedic or otherwise—is at its peak. Americans are used to casting a jaundiced eye at newscasters. Former “Daily Show” correspondent Larry Wilmore has jumped into the ring with his “Nightly Show,” and John Oliver (another former “Daily Show” correspondent) has been doing a bang-up job over on HBO with his “Last Week Tonight.” Throw into the mix old standbys like Bill Maher’s “Real Time With Bill Maher” and the airwaves still feel like they could support more sarcastic analysis. Perhaps it has something to do with today’s news cycle. Every week we’re bombarded with information that is either soul crushing (the recent attacks in Paris) or baffling (Donald Trump’s continued domination in presidential polls). The more people screaming out their frustration and pointing out the comical idiocy of it all, the better.

So, in a way, Noah couldn’t lose. As long as he could tie a tie and smile, he was in like Flynn. Thankfully, the comedian came out of the gate swinging, establishing his own style and scoring some quick, memorable laughs. Noah looks and feels quite a bit different from Jon Stewart. First—and most obviously—he’s not American. (“Once again, a job Americans rejected is being done by an immigrant,” Noah quipped on his first show.) Occasionally, foreigners criticizing American culture and politics can come off as standoffish and arch. But Noah displays a mild and soft-spoken demeanor that delivers each pointed barb with a spoonful of sugar and a smile. Whereas Stewart was the often flustered straight man, Noah is the easygoing wiseguy. Thankfully, nobody has tried to reinvent the wheel here. The tenor of the show has changed slightly. But it’s still the old “Daily Show” we’ve grown to know and love.

Noah’s one disadvantage is he inherited a notably depleted stable of correspondents from Stewart. Long gone are stars like Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert, Ed Helms, Lewis Black, Samantha Bee, Jason Jones and the like. Since Noah showed up, though, the show has added some promising faces, including Ronny Chieng, Desi Lydic and Roy Wood, Jr. If the show can locate a few breakout stars, it’ll ease the pressure on Noah. For now, though, the kid is doing just fine, shouldering a heavy pop cultural burden with a grin and a wink. It’s a good thing too, because the world can never have too many jokes about Donald Trump’s hair.

“The Daily Show with Trevor Noah” airs Monday through Thursday at 12am on Comedy Central.

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