When Trevor Noah was announced, in 2015, because the alternative for Jon Stewart as host of “The Every day Show,” he was met with a powerful “Who?”
Actually, he was not entirely unknown. He had very recently joined the comedy-news show as a correspondent. What’s more, he was an completed humorist with a substantial following beyond his home country of South Africa.
Still, he had not exactly dominated the lists of top candidates to host a show that, for all of the world maps in its graphics, was still America-centric. As Noah put it during his surprise announcement in September that he was stepping down, Comedy Central had taken of venture on “this random comedian no one knew — on this side of the world.”
America, in any case, is a giant country with a whole lot of blind spots. And one in every of Noah’s accomplishments, as he took a late-night institution in his own direction, was to reveal them, and to widen, ever so barely, late night’s sight view.
Noah, whose last “Every day Show” airs on Thursday, was after all a rarity as a Black host in a line of labor still dominated by white guys, taking up a show that had taken deserved hits over its treatment of race. (On the time of his hire, he joined Larry Wilmore, whose “The Nightly Show,” also on Comedy Central, was canceled in 2016.)
But he was further distinguished by being African, representing an element of the world often neglected by American news, much less comedic news concerning the news.
Beyond a special allowance for natives of the British Isles like John Oliver, James Corden and Craig Ferguson, lots of late night’s most famous hosts have performed some type of Americanness as a part of their act. Johnny Carson’s Midwest-meets-Burbank cool was a giant reason for his broad palatability, while David Letterman played up the affect of the Indiana weatherman gone twisted. On “The Every day Show,” Stewart’s act was to survey the media circus with the befuddled exasperation of a Jewish guy from Latest Jersey.
If Noah was an exception in late night, he invested his show with the notice that “exceptions” are the rule worldwide. Everyone has to concentrate on America, but not everyone seems to be like Americans, nor does everyone all the time see us as we see ourselves.
So he helped his audience see through his eyes. One among his most inspired bits in his early years managed to seek out a special approach on essentially the most ubiquitous of late-night subjects — Donald J. Trump, then a 2016 presidential candidate — by joking that his glitzy aesthetic, boastfulness and outrageous claims made him seem most like an African dictator. “Donald Trump is presidential,” Noah said. “He just happens to be running on the incorrect continent.”
Noah played the outsider, but he didn’t play dumb. He had a crisply pressed cool, a cosmopolitan intelligence and a flexible voice. (He developed a spread of regional American accents on top of his various international ones.) He was as much in his element hosting the Grammys as he was hosting the White House Correspondents’ Dinner.
And when the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted live studio productions, he adapted to the home-casual environment in addition to any of his peers, shooting “The Every day Social Distancing Show” in his apartment wearing a rainbow assortment of hoodies.
He was also the late-night host who spoke most passionately about George Floyd’s murder and the protests over police brutality against Black people. It was an irony that the host who made “The Every day Show” essentially the most global it had ever been found his moment when the world shrank right down to the dimensions of our living rooms.
Like some others coming out of distant work back to the office, Noah has said that his experience of the pandemic made him reconsider whether he desired to keep doing the identical thing together with his life. After a visit to India, he told The Hollywood Reporter, “I discovered myself realizing just how much I’d missed out on.”
Departing at age 38, after just over seven years within the chair, Noah won’t have stayed long enough to define an era in late night, unlike Stewart (16 years), Carson (30) or Letterman (11 years with NBC, 22 with CBS). Let’s be honest: Late night is a less essential a part of the media universe than it was (and the story of its continuing decline is almost as old as Noah). Possibly his tenure marked the start of an era by which hosts not cleave to late-night posts for many of their careers.
Ultimately, Noah’s departure may reflect, like his comedy did, a more fluid, quick-changing media environment. Through which case his biggest statement could also be that he held on to his job just long enough to make a mark, then moved on to the subsequent thing. In any case, it’s a giant world on the market.