‘The Daily Show’ New Host Hasn’t Quite Filled Stewart’s Shoes, Shows Potential

“The Daily Show” has a new host, although not much else has changed for the average viewer – but I’m not saying Jon Stewart was easily replaceable.

I think I speak for a sizeable portion of my generation when I say Stewart’s retirement from the show left a hole that can never be filled.

In any case, Comedy Central did its best to find a replacement that wouldn’t offend too much.

Trevor Noah looks like the embodiment of diversity on paper. I’m sure Comedy Central gave itself a slap on the back for finding such a host; “The Daily Show” is, after all, touted as the left of the left in news entertainment.

I was excited about the idea of a mixed race South African on the program. Finally, some variance from the 15 white guys who dominate host positions.

Unfortunately, although there may be differences as far as skin color and country of origin, Noah’s jokes were eerily similar to Stewart’s style. This is not to say Stewart isn’t a funny guy. I have watched “The Daily Show” somewhat religiously for years; I obviously love him.

But I don’t see the point in replacing Stewart with someone who is almost exactly like him, barring skin tone and accent. I was expecting to see something original and different; instead I saw much of the same. It felt depressingly formulaic.

I would have liked to have seen more diverse viewpoints. Instead of interesting insights, I got a cheap joke about South Africa and indoor toilets.

Those critiques are not necessarily negative for the show. Comedy Central surely knows its audience better than anyone, so it would make sense that the new host fits to what its audience already enjoys.

There is little risk in replacing such an icon if the replacement isn’t radically different. People expect “The Daily Show” to have a certain tone and format, which have both been established and perfected over several years.

To change too much of the show would be to destroy it; why call it “The Daily Show” anymore if it doesn’t resemble the original?

That being said, Noah had a successful debut, from my perspective. He is charming, funny and just the right amount of self-deprecating.

It was evident that he doesn’t take this position lightly and that he realizes the size of the shoes he must fill. Interestingly, however, he didn’t seem as nervous as I would expect a person taking on such an iconic role to be.

Noah was comfortable on set and in front of an audience, which probably speaks to his long career as a stand-up comedian. When jokes didn’t land as expected, he did not pause, but merely explained the joke as if he knew it was stupid and agreed with the audience.

There was evident joy on his face when the audience did like a joke, which added tremendously to the show’s light-hearted attitude. Watching Noah enjoy making other people laugh was one of the best parts of the show.

There are still things to work on, of course. While Stewart had a long relationship with his “correspondents,” Noah must create that kind of rapport from scratch. As a result, correspondent sections of the show were a little awkward and rambling.

Noah is also noticeably less comfortable interviewing celebrities than Stewart was, and for good reason. While Stewart had risen to the status of celebrity himself, Noah is virtually unknown in America.

Although there were some disappointments and rough starts, I am confident Noah will make an adequate host for “The Daily Show.” He is funny and mainstream enough to adapt and thrive in his new environment.

I sincerely hope he comes into his own and makes the show his, not merely a remnant of the once-great Jon Stewart empire.

This article originally appeared in the Oct. 7, 2015 print edition of The Echo.

image via variety.com

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