September 28, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Premiere Review: “The Daily Show With Trevor Noah”


THE DAILY SHOW WITH TREVOR NOAH:  Mon-Thurs 11PM on Comedy Central

After one night of THE DAILY SHOW WITH TREVOR NOAH, we conclusively know this:  Comedy Central isn’t bleeping the word “shit” anymore.  It was a fairly big deal when the network let Jon Stewart liberally use the cattle-related version of the word as part of his parting monologue, and when Noah referred to that bit as part of his own first segment, it seemed like it might just be a legacy expletive.  But as the show continued, it became clear that the door had opened to the 4-letter word for excrement, and with that wall down, gosh darn it, now anything might happen.

Or not.  Noah faces perhaps the biggest challenge of this new generation of late-night talk show hosts, because while there’s been a limited amount of nostalgia for the departed David Letterman, Craig Ferguson and–God knows–Jay Leno now that they’re gone, the loss of Jon Stewart is loudly bewailed every time a presidential candidate says or does something stupid, which is to say on a virtually hourly basis, every day of the week.  Stewart’s peculiar perch as both comic and anchorman makes replacing him like simultaneously trying to be the new Johnny Carson and Walter Cronkite.  Comedy Central’s approach, and Noah’s, at least in this very early going, seems to be to make very few changes at all.

The Daily Show has exactly the same format as it did before, right down to the closing Moment of Zen.  Many of the correspondents are back, including tonight’s appearance by Jordan Klepper, pretending to be panicking at the arrival of a new boss, and so is most of the writing staff.  Despite all the pre-premiere discussion about Noah’s race and international perspective, it was easy to imagine most of the night’s gags coming out of Stewart’s mouth, with routines tonight about the Pope’s visit, John Boehner’s resignation (including reference to his orange skin), and the discovery of water on Mars.  The underlying message seemed to be:  nothing to see here, just stay in your chair and keep your hand off the remote.

The one big change, of course, is Noah.  (We also met new correspondent Roy Wood, Jr, very funny in the Mars segment.)  The host is assured, easygoing and smart, and if his nervousness betrayed itself occasionally in unnecessary gestures and a self-satisfied air after a joke landed, who could blame him.  He has a more diffident style than Stewart, for the moment–the feel of a foreign commentator coolly observing the US–with a subtler edge than Stewart’s often furious frustration, or for that matter John Oliver’s, even though the latter is also a foreign-born comic news host.  Noah’s one weak point tonight was in the interview segment, where it also took Stewart quite a while to get comfortable.  Having Kevin Hart as the first guest may have seemed like a good idea on paper, since comics are self-starters as interviewees, but Hart’s opening gag of giving Noah a gift box of ties bombed both with Noah and the audience (Noah briefly turned blank), and the segment never really recovered.

Barring ratings disaster, Noah will have plenty of time to put his own stamp on The Daily Show, and tonight’s show in particular was burdened by the need to newly pay respects to Jon Stewart every few minutes.  For now, Comedy Central’s signature series is very much as it’s been, and despite its new host’s dire description of his arrival as “The family has a new stepdad.  And he’s black,” the kids are likely to be well fed, with a familiar diet of political absurdity served burnt to a crisp.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."