Five minutes into his time as host of The Daily Show, Trevor Noah dropped jokes about papal dick size, Whitney Houston, and AIDS. In other words, he was plenty at ease occupying Jon Stewart's former stead. "I can only assume this is as strange for you as for me," said the 31-year-old comedian. "Jon Stewart was more than just a late-night host—he was often our voice, our refuge, and in many ways our political dad. And it's weird because Dad's left," he said, to massive applause. "And there's a new stepdad. And he's black. Which is not ideal."
The universe actually set Noah up with the perfect segue with the theme of outgoing Jons and Johns: This was the first episode since John Boehner announced his resignation. During a report from senior correspondent Jordan Klepper, when Noah expressed trepidation about who will succeed the Speaker of the House, Klepper joked, "I get how you feel. Taking over for John—Boehner—is hard." Noah replied, "Pretty soon everyone will be saying, John,"—or was it Jon?—"please come back."
In his initial outing, Noah stuck to three very popular stories, Pope Francis's visit, John Boehner's resignation, and the discovery of water on Mars. None required too much intellectual heavy-lifting, though you sense Noah could have delivered. Since the episode was broadcast across Viacom-owned networks, there were news items the audience didn't have to be political junkies to appreciate, perhaps a strategy to attract new viewers.
Also making his comedy-news debut was correspondent Roy Wood, Jr., in a well-played piece that combined space travel and racial discrimination. When asked what he could tell the audience about the water breakthrough on Mars, Wood, Jr., replied, "I can tell you I don't give a shit," kicking off a bit about how black people would be just as persecuted on a new planet (if they could even get there). "You think 'cause you're on TV, they're gonna take you to Mars?" Wood asked, incredulously. "You've only had The Daily Show for one commercial break—white folks ain't decided if they like you yet!"
Comedian Kevin Hart, who brought Noah a box of ties, participated in a low-key conversation that wasn't quite an interview. Noah addressed a couple topics, including Hart's height and his ability to sell out stadiums. But it's not as if Hart is running for president—that's New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who will be a guest on Tuesday.
Fans were relieved for the Moment of Zen, the closer that became a Stewart signature. This time it was a tongue-tied Nancy Pelosi trying to contain her glee as she discussed John Boehner's departure. All in all, Noah seemed confident, told a few racy jokes, and mostly kept to tried-and-true Daily Show format. In his monologue for The Nightly Show, the program immediately following The Daily Show, host Larry Wilmore joked that this was the "first time late-night's gone black-to-black." What other firsts remain to be seen, but it's likely a lot of curious people will be watching.
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The Daily Show with Trevor Noah airs weeknights at 11 PM on Comedy Central.