Trevor Noah welcomed viewers from behind a new fancy wooden desk, part of an entirely new studio set. The opening words sounded the same, but with a twist: “From Comedy Central’s World News Headquarters in New York, this is The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.”
And so began the second most anticipated transition in late-night television this year–after Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert took over for David Letterman–Noah’s replacing Jon Stewart.
“Growing up in the streets of South Africa, I never dreamed that I would one day have, well, two things, really,” the 31-year-old comic said. “An indoor toilet and a job as host of The Daily Show. I’m quite comfortable with one of them.”
Who could blame him? Viewers may recall Trevor Noah as a Daily Show correspondent before Jon Stewart’s final episode on Aug. 6, but the skeptical media labeled him as the South African-raised outsider and a young millennial draw-in who was “stepping into big shoes.” Noah paid tribute to his predecessor by vowing to continue Stewart’s near legendary “war on bullshit.”
No pressure there.
According to Noah, he wasn’t Comedy Central’s first choice. He wasn’t even their second option. Women and men declined the offer, Noah explained in his opening.
“So, once more,” he quipped, “a job Americans rejected is now being done by an immigrant.”
But he harbored no resentment. Actually, he sounded almost grateful.
“And to you, the Daily Show viewers—both new and old, at home or on your phone—thank you for joining us as we continue the war on bullshit.”
From there, the tapes rolled out the first Noah-hosted news clip montage—from NBC to CNN to Fox. Noah critiqued the overhyped media coverage of Pope Francis and expressed disappointment in House Speaker John Boehner’s abrupt resignation. He wasn’t so much upset about the Ohio Republican’s departure as he was over the loss of good comedic material.
“I just got here!” Noah complained. “I got a fancy suit and a new set. I learned how to pronounce your name.”
But all is not lost. There’s still the 2016 presidential election. In the mean time, he took on this more immediate issue: Who will the Republicans pick to replace Boehner as their Congressional leader?
After all, Noah noted with with longtime Daily Show “correspondent” Jordan Klepper, if the wrong guy got the job, it could lead to a complete disaster.
“I mean, wow, those are big shoes to fill,” Noah said.
“I’m sure they’ll find someone extremely qualified,” Klepper said matter of factly.
“But this is John Boehner!” responded Noah with feeling. “Whoever takes that job will probably fall flat on their face in front of the entire nation.”
“I get how you’re feeling,” remarked Klepper. “Taking over for John…Boehner is hard.”
Moving on, the discovery of water on Mars and an interview with superstar comedian Kevin Hart took up the remainder of the show. Perhaps the most interesting part of the Mars segment was the debut of Roy Wood Jr. as The Daily Show‘s newest correspondent. As for Hart, he dominated the interview, which is not surprising given his dynamic personality.
It’s difficult to compare Noah to Stewart. Where Stewart verbally assaulted deserving media and political buffoons, Noah analyzed topics from multiple angles and then carefully dissected his way to a story’s rotten core. He didn’t attack his targets.
Jon Stewart will sorely be missed, but audiences should not expect Noah to be his clone, either—something Stewart’s arch nemeses are probably grateful for.
In short, Comedy Central’s promo motto for Noah’s Daily Show takeover was no joke: “Same chair, different ass.”