When Jon Stewart announced that he would be leaving The Daily Show, fans, both famous and “not so much,” tweeted their encomiums. I would have, too, but that Twitter world can turn on you for the nicest thing. No wonder innocuous kitty videos are so popular. More on Twitlandia later in our discussion of Trevor Noah, the recently named host-to-be of The Daily Show.
As a friend of mine says, “It ain’t easy being easy.” After sixteen years of making hard work look easy, Jon must be tired. Night after night, he has been a civic rhetorician parsing political terms of art; an engaged interviewer who seemed to have read every author’s book; and a public defender with access to the best video archive of evidence.
Of course, Jon has had a great Emmy-winning, mostly male writing team, but great material doesn’t deliver itself. He has had a great roster of “reporters” that he seemed genuinely to enjoy and has generously made them look great. As a thank you, I sent Jon a huge floral bouquet of emoji tulips.
News of Stewart’s departure surely made the right breathe a sigh of relief. They will deny it. See: Bull O’Really. But as this season’s Game of Thrones presidential election looms, it is undeniable that the left will miss Jon Stewart, especially with the bloviating Stephen Colbert retooling himself for David Letterman’s job.
For years, I have lobbied for a woman to host a network late night show. The unspoken theory is that testosterone looks best at night. Estrogen is for daytime use only. I lobbied for Jessica Williams, no relation to Brian, the young, hilarious feminist and race reporter on the The Daily Show. She knows the ropes and the tropes, and would have been a perfect in-house promotion, the new Queen of Meme. She humbly, graciously nipped our lobbying in the butt. Sigh.
Comedy Central’s choice of Trevor Noah, a thirty-one-year-old South African, surprised many, but he has the chops. He is an internationally known solo stand-up star. He has years of experience hosting on radio and television. He’s a wordsmith and a polyglot with killer accents. With Noah, Comedy Central is hoping to shore up the coveted eighteen to thirty-four male demographic that has been leaching to Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show. Fallon is Mr. Entertainment. He is talented but saccharine, so different from the sharp, bitter after-taste from David Letterman. I’ll miss it. It helped me sleep.
Somehow, Noah is not bitter. He is masterful, insightful, sly, and laid-back, yet quicksilver. He is the son of a black African mother and a white Swiss father. He gives a nod to his likeness President Obama. Noah Drama Obama. Where he comes from, racism is a national, not occasional, topic. His racial identity has been reclassified three times in his lifetime. He will go there with fearless frankness.
The night I saw him in a small theater in New York City, his practiced skills allowed him to tackle topics—racism, domestic violence, terrorism—that made the audience, and me, clench up. But we were willing to go there with him. You trust the guy.
Noah is a brilliant choice. If given a chance, I’m sure he will be able to hold the young male demographic, even the white majority of it. Hold on, Doubting Clarence Thomases. I’m not suggesting affirmative action. Comedy Central’s strong, quick defense of Noah in the inevitable sniping Twitter backlash is the “given chance” I mean.
A few news cycles after Noah had been named, a former middle school hall monitor with too much time on his hands found some old tweets of Noah’s deemed offensive. As an actual lesbian, I was fine with his tweet that watching the NCAA Women’s Hockey Finals was like watching lesbian porn. First of all, he was watching. Second, what the puck?
Noah, who knows actual sniper fire, responded to the pusillanimous, anonymous bilge, “To reduce my views to handful of jokes that didn’t land is not a true reflection of my character, nor my evolution as a comedian.”
What I admire most about Noah’s work is that he does not bifurcate serious and funny. Funny is serious.
Serious is funny. He will make you laugh-gasp for air. He’ll say, “Terrorism isn’t a face. It’s an act,” and it sounds like a punchline, not preaching.
I look forward to watching the evolution of Trevor Noah on The Daily Show. I hope it’s a good long run.