For any stand-up comedian, following a fellow comic who has just brought the house down with their set is an intimidating prospect. Once you take the stage after an act that just ‘killed it’ you know expectations are high and you’re going to have to up your A-game to meet them.
So spare a thought for local comedian Trevor Noah, who hosted The Daily Show last night, taking over from Jon Stewart who announced his retirement from the show in August.
Stewart ‘killed it’ for over 15 years on The Daily Show. While Comedy Central’s premier political satire certainly benefitted from the input of many talented folks – Stephen Colbert, John Oliver, Steve Carrel and Lewis Black among them – it was Stewart’s authoritative intelligence and biting wit that transformed The Daily Show into the late night TV behemoth it became.
Leaving aside the multiple award wins and high profile-guests the show bagged – Stewart interviewd President Barak Obama seven times during his tenure – The Daily Show now speaks with about as much authority as mainstream news and Stewart himself became an influential media pundit. Noah, a comparative unknown in the States has a pair of very big shoes to fill.
Judging by his first turn in the chair behind The Daily Show’s desk, no one is more aware of this fact than Noah himself. Indeed, he kicked off the episode thanking his predecessor, while acknowledging the huge expectations heaped on his rather slender shoulders. He then preceded to make the latter a central theme of many of the following gags and segments in an effort to both soothe and win over The Daily Show faithful.
And to be honest, the local boy did good. A couple of the gags fell flat – one involving the demise of Whitney Houston and another using lame wordplay on “AIDS and aides” elicited deserved groans from the audience – but for the most part, Trevor Noah hosted a solidly entertaining episode. Aside from a couple of moments where he tested the limits of his audience’s comedic tastes, there was nothing a regular viewer of The Daily Show could possibly find remiss.
One could argue that Noah was a little cautious in his performance, but hey, it’s the lad’s first day on the job. Give him time. And give The Daily Show audience a time to grow used to his dimples.