The Daily Show's new host - Trevor Noah, who?

Comic Trevor Noah (left, with Jon Stewart) intends to broaden the horizons of the largely United States-centric The Daily Show that Stewart hosted for 16 years.
Comic Trevor Noah (left, with Jon Stewart) intends to broaden the horizons of the largely United States-centric The Daily Show that Stewart hosted for 16 years.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK • With verve and a touch of humility, South African comic Trevor Noah has taken over as host of The Daily Show, filling the gigantic shoes of award-winning satirist Jon Stewart.

"This is surreal for me. I'm not gonna lie," Noah said, launching into an opening monologue on Monday night.

"Growing up in the dusty streets of South Africa, I never dreamt that I would one day have two things really: an indoor toilet and a job as host of The Daily Show. And now I have both and I'm quite comfortable with one of them."

Noah, 31, moved to the United States in 2011 and remains largely an unknown to most Americans despite his eight months as a contributor to the satirical Comedy Central late-night programme during Stewart's reign.

Stewart, 52, vacated his job in August after 16 years. Some of his people have remained on the set, providing a degree of continuity for the four-times-a-week show.

Noah said of Stewart: "He was often our voice, our refuge. And in many ways our political dad. And it's weird, because dad has left. And now, it feels that the family has a new stepdad. And he's black, which is not ideal."

The studio audience seemed to love Noah, though.

"He's more of a charmer," said Mr Andrew Wynner as he exited the show. "He has a lot of charisma."

But he added: "It was more a getting-to-know-you kind of show."

Noah - the son of a white Swiss father and a black South African mother whose union was illegal under South Africa's apartheid system - said he would try to give The Daily Show his own unique flavour. Stewart told him to, he said.

"He specifically said: 'Make your show. Make your best version of it,'" Noah told The New York Times ahead of Monday's show.

"Jon's suggestions were very simple and yet very difficult to decipher. He's like a Jewish Yoda. He said to me, 'Make the best show that you feel needs to be made. And trust your discomfort.'"

Noah said he would try to broaden the horizons of the largely United States-centric show, although Stewart did love to talk about foreign policy.

"I think, naturally, the show will be a representation of my interests and the interests in the room," he told the Times.

"We all live in America. But as America is increasingly learning, if a butterfly flaps its wings on the Chinese stock exchange, there's a good chance it affects America."

A wide range of guests was carefully chosen in the opening week to embody the new tone of the show, Noah told reporters.

Monday saw a visit by comedian Kevin Hart ("because it's a comedy show first and foremost... and Hart has broken the boundaries of colour", Noah said).

Tuesday will feature tech entrepreneur Whitney Wolfe, the founder of dating app Bumble (a new, female voice in a tech world).

On Wednesday, Noah will get his teeth into politics with New Jersey Governor and White House contender Chris Christie (a Republican).

Singer Ryan Adams, who has just released an innovative cover version of Taylor Swift's best-selling album 1989, will close out the first week on Thursday.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 30, 2015, with the headline 'The Daily Show's new host - Trevor Noah, who?'. Print Edition | Subscribe