'The Daily Show with Trevor Noah': And now, your moment of … when?
So, it was all a joke, right? The idea that Jon Stewart would actually desert The Daily Show and a nation needing him, leaving the fate of topical comedy in the hands of a nobody named Trevor Noah.
If so, it isn't funny. If Noah is what we're stuck with, even less.
The Daily Show with Trevor Noah did, in fact, debut Monday night, playing a lot like The Daily Show with Jon Stewart albeit with a fill-in host because Stewart had some last-minute stomach virus, or was off directing another esoterically political movie no one will see. Same Dog on Fire intro music, a minorly refurbished set, identical format all the way to a closing moment of Zen.
What have the people in charge of changing this guard been doing for the past six months since Noah was hired? I can understand not fixing something that ain't broke. But when you're replacing the guts of the mechanism at least give it a new paint job.
Certainly the producers weren't adequately prepping Noah, a 31-year-old South African comedian, to do much of anything except apologize for Stewart not being there. Noah was understandably humbled by expectations, making sure he gave Stewart respect and thanks for handing over the reins. Yet the greatest show of appreciation would be distancing Noah's take on the program from Stewart's quickly as possible. Don't try forcing lightning to strike again.
Invoking Stewart's memorable "see something, say something" farewell remarks. Noah pledged to "continue the war on b-------." Then he launched into a monologue mostly comprised of such bovine material; AIDS as a punchline, how to pronounce John Boehner's name, a Whitney Houston is dead joke, and complimenting the size of Pope Francis' penis. You'll recall that a day after Noah was hired in March, sexist and anti-Semetic offensive jokes surfaced on his Twitter account. That's his comfort zone, likely not the audience's for long.
Even in the interview segment — a softball toss with comedian Kevin Hart in the guest chair — Noah came off flustered, unable to react on the fly, even to Hart's show-warming gift of neckties. No comeback joke, no self-deprecation that was part of Stewart's appeal, not even a measurable sign of gratitude (which Hart noticed, and didn't appear to appreciate).
It was evident that Hart was a Comedy Central plant to make Noah look better. The channel rebroadcast the hot comedian's stand-up special as a lead-in, and he didn't have anything to plug except Ride Along 2, opening in four months. If Noah can't find a rhythm or much conversation with a natural like Hart, he won't fare well with tougher subjects from whom Stewart could coax trenchant commentary.
Sure, it was only one show. Stewart didn't build his reputation in a day. But he also didn't walk into The Daily Show doing the same thing Craig Kilborn did before him. Noah can either set himself apart from Stewart's late night legacy, or run it into the ground.