by Zachary Landau | the Duquesne Duke
Trevor Noah’s debut as the new host for “The Daily Show” last week and it was a ratings success. According to the Nielson ratings company, last Monday’s unveiling raked in 1.09 million viewers on Comedy Central, with 3.4 million total tuning in across all of Viacom’s networks. Throughout the week, however, the content of the show was less promising.
While Stephen Colbert’s debut on “The Late Show” last month was hailed as a breath of fresh air for both the comedian and the late-night scene, Noah’s was surprisingly similar to his predecessor Jon Stewart’s repertoire. In fact, the entire week was devoid of many references to the host-change, as Noah stepped into Stewart’s role effortlessly and seamlessly.
To be fair, the new show does adopt a few differences. Noah himself left behind Stewart’s personality which had adopted an increasing skepticism as he grew older. Noah’s attitude is much chummier, with a lot of the sarcasm typical of today’s satire relegated to single jokes rather than entire segments. He also seems to have taken a page of Colbert’s old persona and actively plays along with the people he lampoons.
There are new correspondents who fit in excellently with the show’s tenor. Interestingly, the returning correspondents are strikingly more satirical than the newcomers.
The differences between veteran Jordan Klepper’s segment on Boehner’s resignation and new arrival Roy Wood Jr.’s Mars routine make this difference obvious, with Klepper making unfavorable allusions to Noah’s potential failure and Wood ragging that black people can barely get a cab let alone get a spaceship to another planet. Wood’s joke is much simpler in set-up and execution, and while it was still funny, its lack of depth left it devoid of the dark humor of the former’s segment and the typical comedy found on Stewart’s show.
In many ways, Noah and his show seem like a more refined version of his fellow late-night CC host, Larry Wilmore and “The Nightly Show.” This is unsurprising, as “The Daily Show” is not Noah’s first run hosting a show. In fact, when he lived in his homeland of South Africa, Noah even hosted his own late-night gig, “Tonight with Trevor Noah.” His personal charm is striking, and it’s hard not to like him, even if all of his jokes don’t always hit.
Speaking of, the jokes had to be the most disappointing aspect of these past two weeks. This is not to say they were terrible, and indeed, most jokes were at least funny. But there lies in the problem: the jokes were just funny. There were no highlights that immediately stand out which leads to the feeling that the writers are trying to play these first few of weeks safe. Overall, the entire week blends together, with no particular segment that really defined each episode.
While not terrible, Noah’s first couple weeks in the hot seat were not particularly exhilarating either. Perhaps, with time, he will start branching off into more serious and exciting territory like Stewart before him; in the meantime, Noah seems perfectly comfortable with the material he has been given and is still entertaining to watch.