It has been a full week since Trevor Noah first debuted his butt in the hosting chair that previously belonged to Jon Stewart, and, with a new episode of The Daily Show poised to air on Monday night and launch us into his second week, I can't help but feel reflective. There were a lot of doubts about whether Noah would be a good replacement for Stewart when he took over the show, and, even after the premiere of the simulcast pilot, people were doubtful that he would ever be able to drag himself out from under Stewart's shadow and pioneer a legacy of his own. Four episodes into his hosting stint, has Noah settled into The Daily Show? Is he a good replacement for Stewart after all? Are the fans starting to embrace their new TV dad? The answers to these questions, in order, are maybe, yes, and we'll see.
The first week of Noah's Daily Show was fraught with awkward moments. There were some jokes that didn't land, that Noah laughed harder at than the audience did. There were some segments that took a while to find their groove, like the Pumpkin Spice Latte sketch, and some segments that seemed downright out of place, like the one of Hasan Minhaj "investigating" a hotel on Noah's dime. All of those I chalk up to nerves and the awkward transition from one host to another, as Noah tried to settle into his new role and as the audience tried to learn the difference between their old, beloved host and the new, young host trying to fill Stewart's huge shoes. No one expected Noah to get it perfectly right out of the gate — and it's because he didn't get it perfectly right from the onset that made his Daily Show such a joy to watch. Especially for me.
As much as I came to love The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, the fact of the matter was that I was 6 years old when Stewart first sat in the chair previously occupied by Craig Kilborn. Believe me when I say that 6-year-old me was not a loyal and passionate fan of the real news, let alone the fake news. I didn't hear of the Daily Show until around 10 years later when I was in high school, and I didn't properly fall in love with Stewart until I was in college. I pretty much missed Stewart building his legacy, and wandered into his home when he was already an established figure in pop culture that people relied on to give them an interesting and entertaining look at the news. Then he exited stage left, and in comes Noah, who I am watching learn and grow before my very eyes. Here comes a host that I am watching build an empire from the ground up, who is growing and changing with the news just as my interests and tastes grow and change as well.
When Stewart first took over The Daily Show, The New York Times said that he "breathed new life into a show that hadn't even seemed to need it," while, of Noah's debut, they gave most of the credit for his success to the "operating system — the show’s writing — running under the surface." And while it's true that The Daily Show is a well-oiled machine fueled by the best f*cking news team ever, the writers can't take full credit for the fresh perspective that Noah brings to the show. Take, for example, his segment on how Donald Trump is a bad American president, but would make a fantastic African dictator. Take for example, his joking exchange with correspondent Jordan Klepper, who declared that the South African Noah has no idea what it is to deal with scarcity — to which Noah simply responded, "Are you kidding me?"
Just as Stewart's Jewish background informed many of his jokes and a fair few of his segments, so too does Noah's South African heritage and status as an immigrant to the United States inform not only his jokes but also his perspective on news items. He is an outsider looking in, and he uses that to bring us a more international Daily Show that broadens its scope beyond simply the United States or the international affairs of the United States. And that's what makes him an excellent replacement for Stewart. Let's be frank. There is no such thing as a "good" replacement for Stewart. People grew up on Stewart, they know Stewart, they trust Stewart, and they love Stewart. For them to accept a replacement for their TV news dad, that replacement had to bring something new to the table that they could not get from Stewart — and that's exactly what we find with Trevor Noah.
He and Stewart couldn't be more different if they tried, and, though they may be hosting the same show with the same writers and many of the same correspondents, everything from the jokes that are written for Noah to his delivery of those jokes is completely different from what we would get with Stewart. Is it better? Is it worse? At the end of the day, that assessment is for the fans to decide. Personally, I loved what I've seen from Noah so far, and I can't wait to see where he takes his second week, and his third, and all of the rest of them. He's hosting a brand new Daily Show, and, the more chances he gets to shine, the more of his doubters he'll convince. For now, he can at least take comfort in the fact that he has some famous fans.