Trevor Noah Carried On Jon Stewart's "War On Bullshit"--& Gave The Daily Show New Life In His Debut w/ Kevin Hart
South African-born comedian Trevor Noah overcame a heap of apathy last night–call it the soft haterism of low expectations, lowered even further by those terrible Comedy Central spots, not to mention Noah’s own spotty twitter track record–to make his debut as the Jon Stewart‘s replacement behind the anchor desk of The Daily Show look surprisingly easy…and surprisingly easy to watch. Many (including many of us here in the Okayplayer offices) were skeptical that Noah’s stand-up persona could necessarily grow the legs to fill Stewart’s shoes, um, pants. Chair. But 7 minutes into last night’s maiden broadcast Noah was winning over a pro-actively disgruntled audience, deftly acknowledging and deflating the inherent awkwardness of the attempt, saying of Stewart:
“He was often our voice, our refuge, and in many ways our political dad,” he said. “And it’s weird, because dad has left. And now it feels like the family has a new stepdad, and he’s black. Which is not ideal.”
In the same few breaths he admirably covered a range of familiar Stewart-ian territory, pointing out that Pope Francis‘ undersize Fiat-made Pope-mobile meant he is probably “undercompensating” for a huge male member, then skewering Marco Rubio and John Boehner with bits that ranged from satire to boner puns. Pope-dick, check. Merciless political satire, check. More dick jokes, check. Perhaps the most reassuring thing about Noah’s introduction to the Comedy Central audience was less the confidence with which he handled Stewart’s traditional duties, as it was the evident and barely repressible joy with which he delivered backhands and slamdunks. We think we’re gonna like this cat.
There were a few off-notes, to be sure. A Whitney Houston joke that found Noah adopting a stereotypical Africa-American dialect in order to embody the voice of crack cocaine got an ugly “oooh” from the audience that was for affect as much as topic. Likewise, his debut guest segment with Kevin Hart saw comedy’s smallest giant generally dominating, upstaging and derailing the interview portion of the show. Yet considering the speed-talking, world-devouring comedic rockstar Hart has now become, the fact that Noah was not totally eaten alive should count as a win his first night out.
If you really want the most brutally honest opinion of whether you bombed on opening night, of course, you should ask a 4-year old, or by the same logic, check twitter. Social media was surprisingly booster-ish on Noah, the #DailyShow tag populated mostly gushy, newly-minted female fans (he does look alarmingly like a man-scaped version of Abel Tesfaye AKA The Weeknd) and support from brands and outlets ranging from Viacom to Nando’s Peri-Peri. Herein lay one more note of caution: by hiring some of black twitter’s smartest and funniest voices (Baratunde Thurston, Roy Woods, Jr.) Noah may have taken some of the oxygen out of his own social media buzz. These are, as they say, good problems and though it remains to be seen how long the honeymoon will last, based on his initial exchange of fire? We’re extremely reassured that this young gun is the one carrying on Stewart’s “War on bullshit.”