Trevor Noah brings a welcome refresh to ‘The Daily Show’

and | Staff Writers

Self-appointed late-night talk show critics Elena Wandzilak and Katharine Jaruzelski are back to weigh in on the first week of “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.”

KJ: First off, one of the most notable changes that has come with Trevor Noah’s arrival is that he brings a much younger voice to the show. At 31, he’s the youngest host in late night right now, so he can get away with joking about things like emojis and the Kardashians, which would sound ridiculous coming from Jon Stewart. I think that was definitely part of the thinking behind choosing Noah for the job—the show needs to bring in a new generation of viewers.

EW: He’s new and fresh, but the overall structure of the show remains the same. He continues to focus on national issues and not purely on international or “global” issues like some people expected, given his South African background. Noah’s covering the presidential race, just like all the other late night hosts.

What was interesting, however, is how he chose to discuss what it means to be “presidential,” specifically with a segment on Thursday’s show in which he compared Donald Trump to current and past African presidents. Many of these African politicians are even more xenophobic, anti-scientific and egotistical than Trump is. The media has been asking if Trump is “presidential” because he seems so insane, but with this comparison, Noah reveals that our notion of appropriate presidential behavior is specifically American and brings African politics into discussion. He uses his “global” perspective to analyze the national issues, which will continue to separate “The Daily Show” from other late-night programs.

KJ: His interview with Chris Christie was also a great get. That was definitely Noah’s best interview of the week—he asked pointed questions about issues like immigration and social security, and Christie had smart, well-spoken answers. Also, for someone with virtually no interview experience, Noah seemed remarkably at ease with this man who could potentially be the next leader of the free world. Granted, Christie seemed to take a pretty breezy approach to the interview, too—most of Noah’s questions weren’t exactly challenging, and Christie was happy to expound on his favorite talking points. Regardless, the interview was a smart move for Noah and an even smarter one for Christie, who used it as a platform to target young voters.

EW: The other interviews, however, were much weaker. The first guest was Kevin Hart, and the interview jumped all around. Noah came off too much like a fan, instead of an intelligent interviewer. Not all of his interviews need to be hard-hitting, but they need to have substance. “The Daily Show” is best when it’s educating its viewers, not just gushing over celebrities. Meanwhile, Thursday’s brief Ryan Adams interview was just plain weird, conducted on stage and sandwiched in between Adams’ performances, and Tuesday’s interview with Bumble dating-app CEO Whitney Wolfe was nothing special. This first week of shows introduced Noah to a range of guests, and he definitely thrives with some more than others, but he just needs time, which I am more than happy to give him.

KJ: The revamped “Daily Show” also introduced a couple of new correspondents: Roy Wood, Jr. and Desi Lydic. (There’s a third newbie, Ronny Chieng, who hasn’t appeared yet.) Wood in particular has already appeared in some strong segments dealing with issues of race, including a pre-taped segment with fellow correspondent Jordan Klepper about police bias. And Klepper and the other holdover correspondents are as great as always. I loved the faux QVC bit that Hasan Minhaj did with Lydic to satirize how ISIS has been auctioning off looted artifacts. It seems like Noah has put together a solid, diverse team.

EW: Overall, I think he’s doing a really great job. I really liked all of his accents and impressions, and they manage to serve as an additional punch line to the jokes. They aren’t necessarily the best impressions I have ever seen, but he can do a lot of them, and they’re goofy. We need goofy sometimes, and it’s nice to see him smile or laugh at his own jokes, especially when he’s trying so hard to craft his own voice in the shadow of Jon Stewart.

KJ: He’s just so incredibly different from Stewart, not just in terms of his identity as a young, mixed-race, South African man, but also in terms of his delivery style and general on-camera presence. His behind-the-desk demeanor is more serene and all-around happier than Stewart’s was—even when Noah gets riled up about a topic, it comes across as excited rather than angry. Needless to say, Noah has big shoes to fill, and his role as “Daily Show” host will take some getting used to. He hasn’t earned our trust just yet, but I’m confident that he will.

“The Daily Show with Trevor Noah” airs Monday through Thursday at 10 p.m. on Comedy Central.