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The Daily Show Says Good-bye to Trevor Noah

Photo: The Daily Show with Trevor Noah

Last night marked Trevor Noah’s final episode of The Daily Show. Noah helmed the show through Trump, a global pandemic, and innumerable shows in which comedians drive cars and shoot the shit — all equal threats to our democracy. In his last episode, Noah made light of how much unthinkable news has happened during his tenure. “When I started this show, I had three clear goals,” he said during his farewell segment. “I was like, I’m gonna make sure Hillary gets elected, I’m gonna make sure that I prevent a global pandemic from starting, and I’m gonna become best friends with Kanye West.” It’s the end of an era, but somehow not the end of The Daily Show. Through the many mergers and corporate restructures Comedy Central has endured, The Daily Show has remained. For most of next year, it will be hosted by an array of celebrities, while Noah will return to his global touring schedule.

The Washington Post called Noah a “late-night comedy unicorn,” which is fitting, since I think unicorns would deliver jokes pretty smugly. Noah has always conducted himself with a certain “Ain’t I a stinker?” energy. His whole act is based on going, “That’s what you sound like.” He does a little voice, purports an outrageous viewpoint, then ascribes that viewpoint to someone else: “Trump thinks like this.” “The American public is clamoring for this.” “African mothers will hit you for saying this.” He likes to have the outsider take even when it feels like he’s manufacturing straw people to get to the center of. For example, when he called Antifa “vegan ISIS” in 2017 or argued for Kanye’s humanity earlier this year (which is about a decade ago in Ye controversies). But to Noah’s credit, he was the only late-night host in the first week after Queen Elizabeth II’s death to acknowledge that many parts of the globe weren’t exactly sad their former colonizer was dead. For better and worse, Noah always seemed keenly aware of the rhetorical position he was taking as well as his more global perspective in American late-night comedy.

The role of The Daily Show’s correspondents changed greatly under Noah. Some of this change was due to the pandemic, but even before that, they felt more and more separate from the show as a whole. Remote pieces became less central to operations, only one correspondent would come in per episode, and some segments were done on entirely different sets. Desi Lydic has been filing pieces about womanhood in the U.S. from some unknowable bunker, Jordan Klepper (when he wasn’t on his own spinoff show) was traveling from Trump rally to Trump rally, and Roy Wood Jr. continued to do his “CP Time” segments without an audience even after Noah got back in the stu. Noah’s coterie of correspondents was strong as fuck, but they often felt like a separate show. Noah was Superman in the Fortress of Solitude, and the correspondents were the Wonder Twins getting up to some bullshit with a monkey.

So who should inherit Noah’s desk? Many people’s money is on Roy Wood Jr., who has been delivering quality content this whole time. And Dulcé Sloan’s riff on Herschel Walker this week briefly convinced me that she should get the job. But part of what makes their TDS content work is its insurgent quality. Wood and Sloan pop in, talk some mess, then leave. The Daily Show has some overlap with The Muppet Show: The center of the chaos needs to be a semi-boring authority figure. The real question is “Who is the new Kermit?” Honestly, if they weren’t owned by Disney, either Kermit the Frog or Guy Smiley could get the job done. Other people who could double-task as the main comedy engine of Headlines and the Margaret Dumont of correspondent segments include Philomena Cunk, Talk Show the Game Show host Guy Branum, Ziwe, the hosts of Black Men Can’t Jump [in Hollywood], Chris Hayes, those GMA hosts who are allegedly fucking, Adam Rippon, and, of course, Matt Berry. But that’s fall 2023’s problem.

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The Daily Show Says Good-bye to Trevor Noah