Late-night comedy had a tough job on Election Night. As a worst-case scenario for so many Americans started to play out in front of their eyes, hosts like The Daily Show's Trevor Noah were tasked with making some sense of things and ideally provoking some laughter, albeit the low-key kind. The race hadn't been called yet when the host made his final statement on Tuesday night, but things were definitely looking up for Donald Trump. Noah addressed his comments to despairing Americans and empathized with them. The last moments of the Election Night special of The Daily Show challenged viewers to not lose themselves or their ideals in the face of potential defeat. It was almost a riff on Michelle Obama's famous quote: "When they go low, we go high." Noah said,
"There are so many thoughts that we have right now, so many ideas. We can only wait to see what the results will be. I will say this: from chatting with some of the people here, from seeing the audience, and from feeling maybe what you're feeling at home... You can be dejected. You can be sad. But, I will say this: Don't let it turn into fear. Because that is the thing that Donald Trump has used to get his side to do something that they never should have done. So, stay strong. Stay positive. And that's our show for tonight."
It may be a hard road ahead for America in the aftermath of such a painfully divisive election. This message of strength and solidarity is an important one. And while The Daily Show election special didn't strike an inappropriately effusive or goofy tone, Noah's sign off added a note of positivity. He didn't tell his viewers that everything was going to be okay. He didn't instruct them not to mourn if that's what they were feeling. Instead, the host pointed to the cheap and exploitative tactics used by the Trump campaign to garner support and encouraged the opposition not to follow that same path. Fear may have won the day, but it wasn't a fair fight.
It will be interesting to see how comedy news handles this new normal going forward. As Trump gained ground in the Republican party and eventually became the nominee, The Daily Show and others weren't strapped for jokes. A reality TV star with an aversion to teleprompters was running for president. But now they and their audiences are forced to account for the number of friends and neighbors who actually went out to the polls and voted for that reality TV star, his racist rhetoric, his alleged sexual assaults, and other odious words and actions.
The hurt is there, and lots of people on my Twitter and Facebook are asking about what happens next. Noah's statement encourages those people to meet whatever comes without the kind of fear that manifests in anger and hatred.