Trevor Noah named next host of The Daily Show: Good move?

trevor-noah_pri-The real news in the world of fake news today is that 31-year-old South African comedian Trevor Noah has been named to replace Jon Stewart at the anchor desk at The Daily Show.

Noah has been a correspondent on the show since December, though in a limited capacity, used just three times since coming on board, to mixed reviews. Having a limited bank of appearances for outsiders to judge on, Comedy Central, which has a good track record at getting these kinds of things right, deserves some slack cut its way, because while Noah has a bit of a low profile in the U.S., he is well-regarded in his native South Africa, where he has had great success in TV and radio, and a burgeoning career in the U.S. and worldwide in standup.

It is worth noting here that Noah said on an appearance on a Daily Show podcast in January that Stewart, announced in February that he will leave the show after a 16-year run sometime later this year, had personally recruited him to join the show’s correspondent staff, suggesting that Noah could have been on whatever short list had been developed and placed under lock and key for the moment that Stewart was to decide to leave.

That and the revelation from Noah that he didn’t do a formal audition for the spot at The Daily Show anchor desk does open up Comedy Central for some criticism – in not having done more to raise his profile.

Three forgettable appearances over a four-month span isn’t a buildup, and announcing a new guy with that little history with no compelling reason to go public is poor execution. The fanbase, to be sure, had been debating passionately who the next host should be, but that’s a good thing, right, to have people talking about what you’re going to do?

Use that passion and use the time that Stewart built in with his vague time frame for stepping down to your advantage, and Comedy Central could have built a foundation for Noah with the audience to make it seem organic when the news would finally come down.

Instead, this feels like the out-of-nowhere decision from NBC in replacing David Letterman on Late Night with Conan O’Brien, then an unknown with writing chops from Saturday Night Live, who eventually grew into the role, but the initial reaction was, Conan who?

Some commentators on the Noah move have tried to suggest that the ascension of Stewart himself was a similar kind of Jon who? moment, but the situations are not at all comparable. Stewart was taking over for the lightweight Craig Kilborn, who didn’t leave much more than a couple of catchphrases for Stewart to build on, and Stewart was far from being an unknown on the comedy and TV scenes.

The stakes are a lot higher now. The Daily Show is a cash cow for Comedy Central, the network’s signature TV show, and a cultural touchstone for twenty- and thirty-somethings, skewing liberal, sure, but encompassing a broad spectrum of that age demographic, which also happens to be a valuable marketing demographic.

Get this one as wrong as Comedy Central got The Nightly Show, whose tone-deaf rollout on the heels of the departure of Stephen Colbert from The Colbert Report has left a gaping hole in the late-night lineup, and this is what NBC did to piss away the good thing that was The Tonight Show with the Leno-O’Brien-Fallon fiasco that may never correct itself happening again.

That said, yes, breathe. Noah deserves some time to build a rapport with the audience, first as the host-in-waiting as Stewart finishes out his term, then as the show transitions with him in the big chair. A lot of people are rooting for him, inside the network and otherwise.

– Column by Chris Graham

 

Press release from Comedy Central:

Trevor Noah has been selected to become the next host of the Emmy® and Peabody® Award-winning “The Daily Show,” it was announced today by Michele Ganeless, president, Comedy Central. His show’s premiere will be announced at a later date.

Noah (www.trevornoah.com) joined “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” in 2014 as a contributor. He made his U.S. television debut in 2012 on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” and has also appeared on “Late Show with David Letterman,” becoming the first South African stand-up comedian to appear on either late night show. Born in South Africa to a black South African mother and a white European father, he has successfully become the top comedian in Africa. Noah has hosted numerous television shows including his own late night talk show in his native country, “Tonight with Trevor Noah.”

“Trevor Noah is an enormous talent. He has an insightful and unique point of view, and most importantly, is wickedly funny,” said Ganeless. “For the next host of ‘The Daily Show,’ we set out to find a fresh voice who can speak to our audience with a keen take on the events of the day, and we found that in Trevor. He has a huge international following and is poised to explode here in America, and we are thrilled to have him join Comedy Central.”

“It’s an honor to follow Jon Stewart. He and the team at ‘The Daily Show’ have created an incredible show whose impact is felt all over the world,” said Noah. “In my brief time with the show they’ve made me feel so welcome. I’m excited to get started and work with such a fantastic group of people.”

Said Jon Stewart: “I’m thrilled for the show and for Trevor. He’s a tremendous comic and talent that we’ve loved working with…In fact, I may rejoin as a correspondent just to be a part of it!!!”

Noah was the subject of David Paul Meyer’s award-winning documentary film “You Laugh But It’s True” which tells the story of his remarkable career in post-apartheid South Africa. Noah’s one-man show “The Racist” at the 2012 Edinburgh Fringe was a sold out run that became one of the most talked about shows at the Festival that year. Recently, Noah performed for the Royal Family at the Royal Variety Performance.

Noah (@TrevorNoah) was featured on the October 2014 cover of GQ South Africa and has been profiled in Rolling Stone, Newsweek and The Wall Street Journal, and by CNN and NPR’s “Talk of the Nation,” among others. He continues to tour all over the world and has performed in front of sold out crowds at the Hammersmith Apollo in London and the Sydney Opera House in Australia.

Noah is represented by LEG, CAA, and Morris Yorn.

 
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