Trevor Noah’s ‘Daily Show’ Debut: Can He Go The Distance?

The first night for Trevor Noah, The Daily Show’s new host, appears to have gone reasonably well. The consensus amongst most critics was that Noah had neither bombed nor shone, but had delivered a competent if sometimes shaky first night’s performance. Originally a British South African comic much loved in the UK, the USA was always going to be challenging for Noah. Daily Show veteran Jon Stewart, who had hosted the program since 1999, left some enormous shoes to fill, and both the network and the audience were well aware of this leading up to Noah’s first night.

Predictably, an homage to Jon Stewart was the first order of business for the new host of The Daily Show. Noah referred to himself as the show’s new “stepdad”, and pointed to his own immigrant background.

“Dad left and now it feels like the family has a new stepdad, and he’s black.”

He mentioned that The Daily Show host spot had been offered to various Americans, all of whom turned it down.

“Once more a job Americans rejected is now being done by an immigrant.”

Noah is widely known as a deft and mannered comic, trading on his polished wit and what the AV Club describes as Noah’s “rascally comedic sensibility.” But it was generally acknowledged to be a nervous start for the new Daily Show host. The Guardian’s reviewer declared that the new host had “only just” cleared the hurdles of a first night hosting a show as popular and as strongly identified with another personality as The Daily Show. Noah’s opening monologue drew praise as the strongest part of the episode – a strength that was put down to the months of intensive preparation that have gone into preparing for the first appearance of The Daily Show With Trevor Noah.

Trevor Noah Daily Show
Jon Stewart easing Trevor Noah into The Daily Show seat
[Getty Images/Brad Barket]
Various reviewers pointed to the new host’s intermittently spotty and nervous delivery, with Noah seeming to slip in his eagerness to reach some punchlines, and struggling at times to find his rhythm with The Daily Show’s first guest, Kevin Hart. It was never likely that the new host was going to pull off the notoriously difficult high-wire act that Jon Stewart had made of interviews on The Daily Show. Trevor Noah’s first effort was variously described as “soft” and lacking both in substance and humor. There were also quite a few groaners amongst his gags during the looser, news segment style sections of the show. Noah made some rare (for him) errors of timing, ending up having to explain some punchlines. One particular gag about the Pope “undercompensating” by driving a Fiat was particular cringeworthy. Noah appeared to muff the delivery, and was subsequently forced to explain that he had been making a joke about the Pope’s… member. Ouch.

Trevor Noah Daily Show
Trevor Noah’s Daily Show debut was heavily promoted [Getty Images/Jason Kempin]
Despite most critics being minutely critical of every single slip-up from the new host, the audience were clearly willing to warm to their new anchor. The groaning was good-natured, and there was a real sense that they were willing to wait for the new host to grow into the enormous shoes needed to be filled by any “new kid” on The Daily Show. Trevor Noah’s characteristic charm and professionalism have won him a careful “wait and see” from the critics and, if Twitter and YouTube are to be believed, a rather more optimistic sense of expectation of greater things to come from the millions of loyal fans of The Daily Show. Noah, in the estimation of most commentators, has done an exceedingly difficult job competently, and is expected to get better and better as time goes by.

The Daily Show with Trevor Noah is widely predicted by the tipsters as a solid (if cautious) bet for the future. What do you think? How would you rate Trevor Noah’s Daily Show debut?

[Picture via Getty Images/Joe Scarnici]

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