Trevor Noah has begun his tenure as host of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show this week, and he is nailing it. For those that don’t know of him (which should be most of you) he is a 31 year-old South African born comedian who has been a contributor to The Daily Show since 2014.
Noah’s appointment was controversial, but only because people have an aversion to what they don’t know. Monday nights episode revealed the updated set complete with a new desk and lighter colour pallet, and remixed music. The announce seems to be a little higher pitched as well, and the font of all the titles has been altered. But apart from that the show uses very much the same format perfected by Jon Stewart over his sixteen years behind the desk.
Noah has kept as close to Stewart’s style as possible — not going so far as imitation or mimicry, but perhaps the better term is emulation. This makes sense. If there was a sudden lurch into the unknown The Daily Show would risk alienating much of it’s audience. Noah has kept the trademark blue notes on his desk (Colbert has done the same thing on the Late Show), and even kept the sign-off line “Here it is, your moment of zen”, followed by an irreverent news clip. Except Noah says it standing -up away from the desk, and with more deliberation. Stewart would mash the line into a short breath so that it was years before I realised he was saying “zen” rather than “in”.
There are teething problems sure. Noah is young. This is a big gig for him and the stakes are high. He isn’t comfortable yet with the interview part of the show, but it would be ridiculous to expect him to be at this stage. Online magazines like Salon are pregnant with criticism, like in his article by TV critic Sonia Saraiya. She misses the point, and writes like many critics. As if it is her job to break down a show into parts, tell you which are good and which are bad and why, and then explain how it shuld be fitted back together. That is not a critic. It is perhaps the rapid scribblings of a closet producer yearning for the chance to create something themselves. Either her pen is tearing through the paper or she is pounding her keyboard so hard her laptop screen must be distorting with every letter.
My personal gauge for whether a tv show, or film, or play, or book is good is to see if it has the desired effect. What I mean is; if it is a comedy, did it make me laugh? If it is a novel, did it demand my attention and not let up until the last page? If the answer is yes then it is impossible for me to say it is bad.
The Daily Show with Trevor Noah is funny. I nearly destroyed my laptop with red wine when I tried to take a sip at a particularly hilarious moment. That fact will make me forgive a lot of foibles, and stay with what was — and will continue to be — a mainstay of the American political media/entertainment world.
Ready for more moments of zen.