Sometimes it seems like the world has gone a little bit mad.
Politics over the past few months has felt like something that The Thick of It or Veep would reject for being too outlandish; we’ve gone way past satire, and into parody. True, things might have settled down a little in Britain post-Brexit and cabinet reshuffles, but we’re also in at a point where the current Labour leader is in a position so precarious he might be ousted because of a train seat. Across the pond it’s a similar story, with a presidential candidate who is… well, we all know of Donald Trump, at this point. Calling for Hillary’s assassination, for the Russians to hack America, and with supporters like these, the idea of Trump becoming President of the United States is a genuinely scary one. In amongst that all, it’s important to be able to keep your sense of humour.
Enter Trevor Noah, and The Daily Show.
On February 10th of last year, Jon Stewart – the host of The Daily Show for sixteen years at that point – announced his retirement from the role of host. Just over a month later, it was revealed who would have the unenviable task of taking over from Stewart: the relatively unknown stand-up comedian Trevor Noah. There was, at this point, panic – people had been so well connected to Jon Stewart over the past decade and a half, the possibility of any change was a scary one. Particularly since Jon Stewart was very good at his job, having transformed The Daily Show from mocking parody under the previous host Craig Kilborn to a genuinely effective piece of biting satire. At that point, for Trevor Noah to take over seemed baffling, admittedly.
If I’m allowed to have a hipster moment, though, I must admit that I had faith in Noah ever since the beginning, because I actually was already familiar with his stand-up comedy. This particular anecdote from Would I Lie to You? is also quite entertaining as well – he’s got good delivery, good comic timing, and he’s generally quite an enthusiastic and charismatic individual. And, of course, there was also his Daily Show debut; this, along with a few other similar segments, meant that I was pretty convinced that Noah could do a good job.
And, to my mind, he has. Yet still – approaching a year on from his official debut – we still get articles and think pieces bemoaning Stewarts departure, wishing that John Oliver or Samantha Bee had taken over instead, and at times even blaming Noah for the rise of Donald Trump.
Certainly, there was a period of settling in – I wouldn’t deny that. Some of the earlier segments, while not by any means bad, did feel a little safe in comparison to Stewarts earlier work. That was likely a case of sampling trying to find a groove; both Noah and the writers were working on finding an angle that would suit Noah as a comedian, rather than just emulating Stewart still.
Recently, they’ve done just that – I think Trevor Noah’s coverage of the election, particularly (or rather, obviously) the Trump campaign, has been incisive and intelligent, while at the same time remaining engaging entertainment. You can quite clearly see how frustrated Noah is, and understandably so; dealing with rampant racism, futile filibusters, and Donald Trump are going to take their toll. Never once, though, has his show been anything less than bitingly sharp satire, with some powerful messages in amongst the jokes.
So, as Trevor Noah gets ready to begin his second year at The Daily Show, it’s really worth sticking with it – particularly ahead of the final electoral push in November, at a time when we’re going to need humour the most.
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