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Trevor Noah's Version of 'The Daily Show' Will Be Less White and More Internet-Friendly

We met Trevor Noah and the rest of The Daily Show team to learn what the new show will be like.

Noah at Friday's press conference. Photo by James Yeh

Tonight, eight days after The Daily Show was named Outstanding Variety Talk Series at the Primetime Emmy Awards, Trevor Noah will officially succeed Jon Stewart as its host. Stewart vacated his cable swivel chair in early August after a 16-year-run that included a decade of consecutive Emmy wins, giving Noah a heartfelt endorsement in parting. Still, during a Friday morning Q&A with five dozen reporters, Noah left no doubt that he understands why viewers may be dubious to tune in: The 31-year-old South African received the anchorship after just three appearances as a Daily Show correspondent.


"These are all Emmy winners sitting next to me, so I know they know what they're doing," said Noah, flanked by executive producers Jen Flanz, Tim Greenberg, Adam Lowitt, Steve Bodow, and Jill Katz. "I'm the wildcard, so they're the ones that should be afraid."

Related: The Many Tongues of Trevor Noah

Noah, a self-described "citizen of the world" and the first non-American to host the original wing of the The Daily Show franchise, said he will embrace his outsider status as he covers well-tread domestic traditions such as the very lengthy presidential primary process (so far, he's a Rand Paul fan, but executive producer Steve Bodow has warned him those feelings will soon subside). As if on cue, the assembled reporters got to see Noah react to the breaking reports that Speaker of the House John Boehner will resign from Congress next month. "But that's sad—I liked him," Noah said when the tittering studio quieted down. "He always cried. He was in touch with his emotions."

When pressed for further response, Noah said he needed time to process the news. "This would have broken in the [writers'] room and then we would sit around and then we would discuss and then we would look at how to approach," he said. "I'm a big fan of thinking [pause] before I see or react to anything." This seemed to be a tongue-in-cheek reference to March's brouhaha surrounding a handful of ill-advised tweets Noah made about Israel and "fat chicks" years before landing his new post. He responded via Twitter, "To reduce my views to a handful of jokes that didn't land is not a true reflection of my character, nor my evolution as a comedian."


People nervous about Noah's outsider status may need to be reminded that America was founded as a nation of immigrants. In addition, those who don't take a country's customs for granted may ask better questions. Frequently in print journalism, a reporter is sent to cover an unfamiliar beat as a stand-in for the uninitiated reader. Noah spoke with reverence toward Stewart but maintained calm confidence that he is the right man for the job.

I look at The Daily Show as a beautiful house that I have inherited. –Trevor Noah

The press gathering was also an opportunity to tour the new Daily Show set, complete with a touch-screen television, added floor space for musical performances, a celestial motif on the ceiling, and a door hidden in the paneling. According to Ganeless, another addition to the show will come from comedian and How to Be Black author Baratunde Thurston, who has been hired to oversee a new Daily Show team responsible for creating unique social-media content. "It will enable us to have a conversation with the viewers beyond 11 o'clock," Ganeless told reporters.

Besides the veteran producers, Noah will be joined by a total of seven correspondents from "the best fucking news team ever," a group that features four returning personalities (Jordan Klepper, Jessica Williams, Hasan Minhaj, and Al Madrigal) and three newbies.

Desi Lydic, who is expecting a son in December, is a veteran improviser (The Groundlings, iO West) who spent five years on the MTV series Awkward. "My inspiration, character-wise, is the Megyn Kellys of the world, the Fox News blondes," she said, adding that though she and Williams are the two sole women in the cast, the breadth of females on staff ensure "a really strong female presence on the show."


Ronnie Chieng described himself as "a Chinese guy from Malaysia" who relocated to the States weeks ago after working as a stand-up comedian for a decade in Australia. "Let me just say getting set up in Manhattan is one of the hardest things," he said. "I thought I had a tough time because I'm not a US citizen and I don't have US credit and all that stuff—everyone has it tough apparently." Chieng called The Daily Show "the monolith" of the New York City "comedy mecca." "We don't aim for the lowest common denominator and we're totally proud of that," he said.

Lastly, since Night Show host Larry Wilmore already laid the claim to "senior black correspondent" sobriquet during his Daily Show days, first-season correspondent Roy Wood Junior aims to lock up "senior more blackerer correspondent." He called himself "a lazy-ass comedian from Alabama" despite the fact that he began his stand-up career as a 19-year-old in 1998.

"I feel like everything that I've done for 17 years has pretty much prepared me [for The Daily Show]," Wood, Jr., said, citing the prank phone calls he used to employ as a radio host, his sitcom-acting on the former TBS series Sullivan & Son, and writing for the road. "This is a horrible analogy but it's like in The Karate Kid where Daniel didn't think Mr. Miyagi was teaching him anything, and then he looked and went, 'Oh my God—everything I was doing was preparing me for this.'"

Which sounds like the way Noah feels. Having grown up biracial in a nation divided by Apartheid, he'll bring plenty of firsthand insight to a television institution tasked with providing humor in the face of a relentless news cycle and civil unrest.

"I look at The Daily Show as a beautiful house that I have inherited," Noah explained. "It's a landmark. And so what I'll do is try and create it into the home of my dreams using my new family. As time goes on, that might mean breaking down a wall here, changing a color there, moving a counter over there. But you will know that there's a new person living in the house because you'll be complaining about the noise."

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The Daily Show with Trevor Noah premieres tonight at 11 PM on Comedy Central.