Roush Review: Trevor Noah’s New ‘Daily Show’ Isn’t All That New

The Daily Show With Trevor Noah
Peter Yang/Comedy Central
Trevor Noah

“I can only assume that this is as strange for you as it is for me,” the charming, erudite South African comic Trevor Noah said on his first night behind the Daily Show desk. Guess what, Trevor? It’s probably stranger for you.

From opening theme to closing Moment of Zen, many of the elements of The Daily Show we’ve known and loved for years were firmly and amusingly in place. No reinventing the format here, as Jimmy Fallon did on The Tonight Show and Stephen Colbert is currently attempting on The Late Show, making these venerable franchises their own and molding them to their personalities.

Acknowledging the great debt he and The Daily Show owe to Jon Stewart was the first priority of Noah’s confident, if unexceptional, opening night. “He was often our voice, our refuge and in many ways our political dad. And it’s weird, because dad has left,” Noah said in tribute to Stewart. While noting the significance of the show’s “new stepdad” being black, he also addressed the criticism that a woman hadn’t been chosen for the anchor chair, though some were asked (“They all had better things to do, and clearly knew something I didn’t,” he quipped). And what about the surprise choice of a foreigner? “So once more a job Americans rejected is now being done by an immigrant,” Noah joked, delivering his best lines with a genial, wide smile.

His bit on the media’s Pope mania (“Prayer Home Companion”) was just OK, but he picked up steam in discussing the resignation of House Speaker John Boehner (“Why leave now? I just got here!”) and his “hair-trigger set of tear ducts that go off any time a child picks a flower.” Remarking on how Boehner was not considered conservative enough by the Republican party’s radical wing, Noah went on an inspired and classic Daily Show riff: “It’s like crack telling meth that it’s not addictive enough,” which led to a Whitney Houston joke that got as many groans as laughs. “Too soon?” Noah shot back with an impish grin. Probably always would be, but crossing the taste threshold is not uncommon for Daily Show hosts and correspondents. (However, a sophomoric joke about how everyone in “Club Congress” has AIDS-er, aides—would have been better left in the writers’ room.)

The highlight of the first night was a hilarious segment featuring new correspondent Roy Wood, Jr. ranting furiously about what the discovery of water on Mars might signify about future colonization. “Brother can’t catch a cab, you think we can catch a spaceship?” he exploded. “Black people ain’t going to Mars. And that includes you, Trevor!”

The interview that followed with Kevin Hart was as disposable as the box of ties the guest gave the host. But making interviews sing will take time, and that was rarely what many of us tuned into The Daily Show for even at Stewart’s peak.

It remains to be seen if Noah will eventually shape The Daily Show to fit his more “global” perspective, as correspondent Jordan Klepper hinted before comically hyperventilating at the prospect of change. But for now, fans can relax in the knowledge that by elevating Noah to this rarefied perch in the world of fake-news, Comedy Central didn’t try to fix what wasn’t broken.