The new incarnation of “The Daily Show” with host Trevor Noah received at least one rave review. It came from Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist and Friend of the Show, who tweeted out this praise: “Congratulations…new opening credits now show Earth rotating in the correct direction.”
But to read some of the reviews on the morning after Noah’s debut, you’d think the Earth had spun off its axis entirely. With its nemesis Jon Stewart gone, the conservative website Breitbart was ready to pounce (Indeed, more than two weeks before Noah even assumed the reins as host, Breitbart posted a story headlined, “Trevor Noah is not Funny and the Media Doesn’t Care”).
Its review: “Noah Bombs…Noah might grow into the gig. He might not. It won’t matter. He is politically correct and a left-wing extremist, so the media will undoubtedly prop him up regardless.” The reviewer got all this from a mere 30 minutes (including commercials).
Other reviews were either dismissive (“Crude, clumsy debut,” said the Daily Beast) or took a wait and see attitude (“A less than spectacular debut,” said USA TODAY). The Washington Post was more encouraging. “What were we so afraid of?” wrote Hank Stuever. “It’s enough for now to just utter a sigh of relief. ‘The Daily Show’ is back, with its essential wit and irreverence intact.”
But to quote the punchline to one of Noah’s edgier jokes involving a one-upmanship battle between meth and crack, its punchline referencing Whitney Houston, these reviews are “too soon.”
The new boss is not the same as the old boss and it will take who knows how long for him to emerge from Stewart’s 16-year (and five months) shadow and make the “Daily Show” show his own. And if he doesn’t, he, or it, will be gone. Or, better, Jessica Williams might get a shot to host.
Humor is subjective, and a joke I may consider to be a kneeslapper, Breitbart might term “fascist, bullying.” But all in all, I’d say it was an auspicious beginning. Joke-wise, the hit-to-miss ratio was pretty good. The best, to me, was Noah’s observation that he was far from the first choice to take over from Stewart. “Once more,” he said, a job Americans rejected is now being done by an immigrant.”
For now, what South African native Noah most has going for him is that he is a fresh face and a fresh voice with an energy that in the end was lacking in the outbound Stewart. “’The Daily Show’” doesn’t deserve an even slightly restless host,” Stewart explained when he announced his departure. And Stewart was visibly restless; his rants more strident than funny. He is certainly more comfortable as host than Conan was when he initially took over from David Letterman. His correspondent duties on the show will certainly ease the transition.
And so the honeymoon and period of adjustment begins. The ultimate litmus test for Noah as the weeks and months progress will be whether, upon hearing a breaking news story, viewers will be compelled to see what ‘The Daily Show’ has to say about it.