Jon Stewart hasn't been the only host of The Daily Show, but he has definitely been the most memorable and influential. With him signing off on Aug. 6, Trevor Noah will take over as host of The Daily Show on Sept. 28. Stewart made The Daily Show what it is today after taking over for predecessor Craig Kilburn in 1999, and though a fresh spin on the news is welcome, will Trevor Noah be able to make The Daily Show fans — and possibly more importantly, Stewart fans — happy?
After Noah spoke at the Television Critics Association summer press tour, reporter Tim Goodman of The Hollywood Reporter made an excellent point when he wrote:
What is likely to happen for Noah and Comedy Central — in fact, something both are predicting — is that his audience will be significantly younger than Stewart's core audience. Obviously some Daily Show fans will stick around and watch Noah and the gang for a while. But those who watched for Stewart — and I would argue that's the bulk of the current audience — will not. They will move on.
Over the last 16 years, Stewart has built a fervent fanbase, something that Noah may eventually earn in his own time, but to expect that all Stewart devotees will just accept Noah with open arms is not realistic, nor is that how it should be. Noah is going to have to earn his own group of viewers — and by doing more than just taking Stewart's seat.
While it may seem an easy comparison to look at the recent transition of The Colbert Report to The Nightly Show to help understand how Noah's takeover will go over — there's a major difference. Stephen Colbert and his brand left Comedy Central and though Larry Wilmore took over his time slot, he didn't step in as host for The Colbert Report — he created his own show and brand. Of course, Wilmore has benefitted from the built-in Colbert audience (I, for one, tuned in because I was used to watching Colbert at 11:30 p.m. and have stuck around for Wilmore's understated truth), but the Colbert Nation also harmed Wilmore. People who strictly wanted a Colbert replacement were disappointed since Wilmore is nowhere near as absurd or polished as his predecessor. But Wilmore has his own charm — just like Noah will have on his own version of The Daily Show.
But to go back to the quote from The Hollywood Reporter, one major effect of Stewart leaving The Daily Show will be that the audience of the Comedy Central institution will inherently change. Noah will most likely lose some core watchers while bringing in some younger viewers because of his own youth and edginess, which is a perfect audience for The Daily Show. The Daily Show isn't specifically for young people, but the show has a history of making politics accessible to college-age people. For me, The Daily Show and The Colbert Report became my main news sources at a time when I didn't have any tolerance for 24-hour news channels. (Who am I kidding? That's still the case with The Daily Show and The Nightly Show.)
And though Stewart leaving may mean that The Daily Show will have less viewers initially, Noah is guaranteed to make his own fans. And that's what keeps a brand viable — the ability to adapt and bring in a new generation of watchers. Although I'm devastated to say goodbye to Stewart on Aug. 6, I'm also excited to see what Noah does with the show starting on Sept. 28. And once his show is over, I'll be changing the channel to CBS to check out Colbert's take on The Late Show. (Sorry, Wilmore — I'll still be a fan.)
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