In case you’re one of the 6 people in this country who is not aware that Trevor Noah is now running The Daily Show (hey, there were probably some miners trapped or something), he has been for 2 weeks now and it’s gone just swimmingly. If you’re like me, you probably went and watched his special on Netflix right when he was announced as Jon Stewart’s successor, and if you’re like me, you were immediately impressed. These last 2 weeks are the first prolonged exposure we’ve gotten to Trevor Noah as America’s fake-newscaster-in-chief, though, and 10 episodes have given us a pretty good feel of how the show will be under him.
Excuse me if I’m jumping the gun, but it’s looking good. The show is as relevant as ever, if not more than before, now that The Daily Show’s anchor is actually a solid part of its target demographic, and not just in the fringes (no disrespect Jon Stewart, I got nothing but love.) Some of the correspondents stuck around too, even fan favorites like Jessica Williams and Al Madrigal, so not everything’s different. Fans of Stewart’s version should have no problem transitioning with Noah, as you can still expect the sharp commentary which evenly balances politics and parody that viewers of The Daily Show have come to know and love.
By the way, let me be clear: there is nothing wrong with getting the bulk of your TV news from The Daily Show. In this age of social media where mainstream reporters increasingly mix in humor to effectively communicate, the lines between CNN reporter and Comedy Central reporter are blurring. Most importantly, The Daily Show is always very clear about what is reality and what is parody, once you realize their almost formulaic set-up of a real news story followed by an absurd comment. The humor comes from the fact that the absurdity fits in with reality. Since it’s unlikely that viewers will confuse the actual news stories with The Daily Show’s humorous taglines, there’s really nothing wrong with getting your news from Trevor Noah and The Daily Show.
Anyways, there are two distinct differences in this new Daily Show that I’ve noticed so far, and both of them are almost certainly intended, considering the selection of Trevor Noah (a mixed South African) for the anchor seat. The first one was obvious from the debut, where we only saw one white face (the very funny Jordan Klepper) throughout the entire episode. Roy Wood, Jr. made his stellar debut as a correspondent, reminding Noah that “these white folks ain’t decided if they like you yet!”, and Kevin Hart was the first guest to wrap up the show. Trevor Noah’s version of The Daily Show is significantly less white than the previous incarnation was. Considering that so many younger people of all races look to this show as the standard for TV news, this is a big deal, and Trevor Noah knows it. Case in point: next Monday’s guest is Ta-Nehisi Coates.
The second clear difference from Jon Stewart’s Daily Show is that Noah’s version is significantly more internationally-minded. This is also no coincidence, considering the host. Don’t get me wrong, Jon Stewart went a long way to make his viewers care about happenings beyond the border, but it’s innate to Trevor Noah, as his primary focus is not solely on this country. From comparing Donald Trump to an African President to pointing out how wealthy American art collectors may be funding ISIS, Noah is attempting to expand the worldview of his audience not just by covering international stories but by making connections linking the United States with the rest of the world. Alternatively, his best guest segment so far has been Evgeny Afineevsky discussing his documentary “Winter on Fire”, showing that The Daily Show is also interested in foreign affairs beyond how they affect this country.
(Jon Stewart’s version of) The Daily Show may not have been as progressive a workplace as it was a TV show.
These changes are particularly relevant, considering some of the last few month’s revelations. In the eventful time between Stewart’s reign and Noah’s, behind-the-scenes stories came out detailing that The Daily Show may not have been as progressive a workplace as it was a TV show. The biggest bombshell was the resurfacing of an old Marc Maron podcast where Wyatt Cenac described racial tension behind the scenes as the only black writer on the show. Furthermore, many called for Jessica Williams to take over because of The Daily Show’s embarrassing track record with female correspondents, though Williams said she did not ultimately want to do that because she was “unqualified”. The hiring of Trevor Noah and the first episode certainly makes it seem like this show will avoid the racial prejudice allegedly present behind the previous version’s scenes, but there was not a woman to be seen in the first episode. While it was disappointing, the first appearance of Jessica Williams in an early episode quelled some of these fears. Then, it was cool enough seeing a pregnant reporter (Desi Lydic) on TV, but it was even better that the butt of the joke, in the end, was not simply her being a pregnant reporter. Of course, feminist issues would best be handled by a show with a woman as the host, but Trevor Noah’s Daily Show has already at least shown some promise, and we can only hope it gets better as the show settles into a more established rhythm.
Anyways, Trevor Noah has not only shown that he can do just fine heading the Daily Show, well, daily, but that he will also bring a better international and racial perspective into the mix than there was without him. Of course, he’s still a man, so there will be times when the show’s handling of women’s issues leaves some to be desired, but Desi Lydic and Jessica Williams will probably have something to say about that. Now let’s get a few more women on as correspondents, and The Daily Show can move even closer to better representing the vastly diverse viewership it thrives on. Anyways, Noah’s done a great job so far, and if you’re not already watching, I’d strongly recommend you start.