David L. Garcia
I watched the final episode of “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” alone in my apartment, and once it was over, I sat at my desk, staring at my computer, struggling to hold back tears. Stewart’s reign as the smartest, warmest, most sensical man on late night TV had come to an end.
I, like plenty of others, could not fathom a world where Stewart wasn’t on TV. There would now be an empty hole where there was once joy, laughter, and righteous anger. We wouldn’t be able to come home after a long, painful slog through the drivel of everyday life, sit in front of the television set, and have a man we trusted–one who didn’t pander or take cheap shots–commiserate with us. How could any person possibly fill the gaping hole left behind by Jon Stewart?
Frankly, no one can. Which is why I didn’t raise my expectations high for newcomer Trevor Noah. I had nothing against him, although he recently received some criticism for some off-color jokes on Twitter, which lost him some support just before he went on air. I just knew no one, no matter their charisma or comedic charm, could truly replace Stewart. “The Daily Show” under his control was, as far I’m concerned, the pinnacle of late night television, and it wouldn’t be fair for me to hold Noah to such a high standard.
As it turns out, this was a good call. Noah’s first week at the helm wasn’t a total trainwreck, but he, like many new late-night hosts before him, needs some time to grow into his new job.
The show’s format is the same, and Noah does seem comfortable in his role, mugging for the camera and exchanging playful banter with his correspondents, including promising newcomers Roy Wood Jr. and Desi Lydic. The segments are generally up to snuff; one, about the sale of ancient artifacts by ISIS to (primarily American) art collectors, was surprising in the way it took on a familiar target with a fresh perspective. I would have liked to see Noah and his crew tackle some heartier fare in their first show (Pope Francis emojis and water on Mars seemed less important than Syria or the European migrant crisis), but later episodes managed to add some gravitas. It was hard not to feel guilty during a segment about how news networks ignored Russia’s dubious Syrian missile strikes to cover the return of pumpkin spice.
Noah definitely needs to work on his interviewing chops. He interviewed Kevin Hart (someone whose sky-high energy and likeability should have made for a slam-dunk first show) and made it seem as if he had never spoken to a stand-up comic before. He fared even worse with Whitney Wolfe, the founder and CEO of Bumble, whose interview went so poorly that Noah was reduced to asking a powerful female tech leader about how to make an appealing Bumble profile. His interview with Chris Christie went better, but I’d be scared to see how he’d take on a much more imposing guest (For the love of God, Bill O’Reilly better not show up anytime soon) .
Honestly, judging Trevor Noah right now seems almost besides the point; legacies are never built in a week, especially in a medium as fleeting and spastic as television. If you were a fan of Jon Stewart, and want to see something on par, please don’t tune in. Try Colbert, who seems to be fitting in fairly well on CBS, or (even better) John Oliver, whose HBO show has been quietly crushing it for over a year now. But if you want to give a new guy a shot, why not stick with Noah and “The Daily Show”? It seems like he’s trying his best.
Photo courtesy of Comedy Central