New Host Trevor Noah Puts His Own Spin On 'The Daily Show' | KERA News

New Host Trevor Noah Puts His Own Spin On 'The Daily Show'

Sep 29, 2015
Copyright 2015 Fresh Air. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/programs/fresh-air/.

Transcript

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. Last night, seven weeks after Jon Stewart stepped down as the long-time host of Comedy Central's "The Daily Show," the new host stepped in, Trevor Noah, a 31-year-old biracial comedian from South Africa. Here's our TV critic David Bianculli with his first impressions of the new "Daily Show" era.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE DAILY SHOW")

TREVOR NOAH: First of all, this is surreal for me. I'm not going to lie. Growing up in the dusty streets of South Africa, I never dreamed that I would one day have - well, two things, really - an indoor toilets...

(LAUGHTER)

NOAH: And a job as host of "The Daily Show." And...

(APPLAUSE)

NOAH: And now - and now, I have both.

(LAUGHTER)

NOAH: And I'm quite comfortable with one of them, so...

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID BIANCULLI, BYLINE: That was how Trevor Noah introduced himself to "The Daily Show" audience last night. And he could have stopped there, with a genial and general opening joke. But he kept going. He got more specific, more personal and intensely and impressively honest.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE DAILY SHOW")

NOAH: You know, but the truth is now I'm in the chair. And I can only assume that this is as strange for you as it is for me. You know, Jon Stewart was more than just a late-night host. He was often our voice, our refuge and, in many ways, our political dad. And it's weird because dad has left.

(LAUGHTER)

NOAH: And now - and now it feels like the family has a new step dad.

(LAUGHTER)

NOAH: And he's black.

BIANCULLI: As I've said before, whenever reviewing one of these new late-night shows the morning after, what you get from the opening installment is a broad first impression, an overall sense of the new tone, the new direction and the new host. It'll take a month or two to get a true idea of what "The Daily Show With Trevor Noah" will become. But right off the bat, we get a clue about what it wants to be. It doesn't appear that Trevor Noah is as intent on changing "The Daily Show" format wholesale as Jon Stewart was when he took over from Craig Kilborn in 1999. There's still an emphasis on current events and lots of funny visuals, as in the lead story report on the pope's visit to the U.S. and his often progressive positions and messages.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE DAILY SHOW")

NOAH: Yeah, hates inequality and climate change, loves immigrants... He's like a young Bernie Sanders.

(APPLAUSE)

BIANCULLI: It's clear that Noah has good comic timing as well as a good sense of when and how to surprise. Both of his pieces last night with "Daily Show" correspondents scored big with the studio audience and veered off into unexpected, clever directions. One of the show's best holdover correspondents from the Stewart era, Jordan Klepper, was reporting on last week's sudden retirement announcement by Speaker of the House John Boehner. Klepper and Noah were discussing how Boehner's successor might be received. And it quickly devolved into an allusion to another John entirely.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE DAILY SHOW")

NOAH: And I guess more importantly, Jordan, what are you hearing about who will replace Boehner? I mean, wow, those are big shoes to fill.

JORDAN KLEPPER: Oh, well, I'm sure they'll find someone extremely qualified.

NOAH: Yeah, Jordan, but this is John Boehner. I mean, whoever takes that job will probably fall flat on their face in front of the entire nation.

(LAUGHTER)

KLEPPER: Yeah, I get how you're feeling. You know, taking over for John - Boehner - is hard.

(LAUGHTER)

KLEPPER: You know, it doesn't have to be a disaster.

NOAH: I don't know about that, Jordan. I can already hear everyone saying the thing, John, please come back; please come back.

KLEPPER: Well, yeah, sure, yes. OK, yes. Everyone's feeling nostalgia for the old leader. But maybe the new guy will surprise us and just crush it, you know?

(APPLAUSE)

KLEPPER: I feel like he's going to kill it. I bet he'll bring a new, like, global perspective to things.

(LAUGHTER)

NOAH: I'm sorry, global? What are you talking about?

KLEPPER: I just keep hearing global. I don't know what the [expletive] it means, global. I hear viral and youth. I mean, everything's just so [expletive] new.

(LAUGHTER)

KLEPPER: The desk is different. There's a new font. I mean, nobody asked me.

NOAH: OK, Jordan, Jordan...

(LAUGHTER)

NOAH: Jordan...

(APPLAUSE)

NOAH: Jordan...

BIANCULLI: Then, introducing one of the show's brand-new correspondents, Roy Wood Jr., Noah discussed what he considered the very exciting discovery of water on Mars. But Wood, who like Noah is black, was much less enthusiastic.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE DAILY SHOW")

NOAH: This about this. Doesn't this raise the possibility that one day people could live on Mars?

ROY WOOD JR.: People like who?

(LAUGHTER)

WOOD: Like me and you? How am I going to get there? Brother can't catch a cab, and you think we can catch a spaceship?

(LAUGHTER, APPLAUSE)

NOAH: No, no, Roy... Roy, that's wrong. That's wrong. We're deserving as anyone.

WOOD: Black people ain't going to Mars.

(LAUGHTER)

WOOD: And that includes you, Trevor. Oh, oh, oh, you think 'cause you're on TV they're going to take you to Mars.

(LAUGHTER)

WOOD: You've only had "The Daily Show" for one commercial break. These white folks ain't decided that they like you yet.

(LAUGHTER)

BIANCULLI: The first night interview segment with fellow comic Kevin Hart didn't really go anywhere. All it did was talk about how good Kevin Hart was. But interviewing is a skill that builds over time and is helped by a broad variety of guests and topics. There's reason to hope that very quickly, Trevor Noah will get the hang of that portion of the show as well. He's smart. He's quick. And unlike, say, Jimmy Fallon, he doesn't seem overly eager to please. Meanwhile, his first show gave viewers plenty of reasons to tune in again tonight and for days and weeks to come. He's young, attractive, funny and not afraid to be honest, even if it unsettles his viewers a bit. And that, more than any other reason, is why I think Trevor Noah should settle in just fine.

GROSS: David Bianculli is founder and editor of the website TV Worth Watching and teaches television and film history at Rowan University in New Jersey.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GROSS: Tomorrow on FRESH AIR, our guest will be Joby Warrick, author of the new book, "Black Flags: The Rise Of ISIS." He says in Syria...

JOBY WARRICK: They have Army bases. They've got banks. They've got the whole apparatus of a state. And that's really unique in the history of modern terrorism. There's never been a terrorist organization that is a de facto state.

GROSS: Warrick is a Washington Post reporter who has covered national security and the Middle East. I hope you'll join us. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.