You only watch a late-night talk show in full, on actual television, at the appointed hour, twice: the host’s first episode, and his last. So say hello to Trevor Noah, your new Daily Show host, who awkwardly plows right through his inaugural applause and Just Gets On With It. He was okay! This is going to be okay. Relax. You can go back to not watching this program in real time and waiting for Twitter to deliver you the highlights the next morning. Noah’s sweet-awkward newness aside, nothing tonight is destined to go viral, but maybe that’s for the best.
And so. He paid copious homage to Jon Stewart: “Our voice, our refuge, and in many ways our Political Dad ... and now it feels like the family has a new stepdad. And he’s black.” He acknowledged that several way-more-famous people turned down the gig before he got it: “So once more, a job Americans rejected is now being done by an immigrant.” Later, he called the quasi-radical Pope Francis “a young Bernie Sanders.” He did a host of bizarre and not-unpleasantly discomfiting voices, including a bit where crack bragged to meth about killing Whitney Houston. He smiled constantly, winningly, almost blindingly; he pronounced “Fetty Wap” like it was a rare and sumptuous cheese.
He also did a couple different jokes about the expectation that he’ll be “global” and “international,” which is already a cliché, but nonetheless! For his second-ever correspondent bit, Noah threw to another black dude (Roy Wood Jr., who is responsible for the one time tonight I laughed out loud, when he opened his water-on-Mars segment with “I can tell you that I don’t give a shit”). Then he bumblingly interviewed a super-famous black dude (a half-as-manic-as-usual-but-that’s-still-pretty-manic Kevin Hart, who bragged about his pants and established that the interviews won’t be the highlight of Noah’s tenure, either). And then he turned things over to the other black dude with a late-night talk show on Comedy Central. In many ways, this is exactly the same Daily Show as before; in a few crucial and heartening ways, it is very much not. This ain’t exactly must-see TV, but I very much look forward to reading about this guy’s antics on the internet in the weeks (months! years!) to come, and for the right reasons this time.