Trevor Noah Describes His 'Daily Show,' Talks Twitter Tumult and Going After Fox News

"I'm not in the news business, I'm still in the comedy business. That's the most important thing Jon Stewart instilled in me."
Peter Yang/Comedy Central
Trevor Noah

Jon Stewart may still be seated at The Daily Show desk for another week, but Trevor Noah's campaign for the new era of Comedy Central's flagship is in full swing. After a Late Late Show appearance and stand-up performance in Los Angeles on Tuesday night, the future host met with reporters at the Television Critics Association summer press tour on Wednesday morning

Noah's first order of business was emphasizing that the bones of the beloved show are not changing. "In terms of content on the show, we're still dealing with the same issues," he said. "The issues are not changing in America and in the world, so it's just a different angle. It's my angle."

He went on to cite the basic differences between himself and Stewart: Their different races — and the fact that they also grew up nearly 8,000 miles apart and are separated by two decades — will be what differentiates the two shows.

And behind the scenes, it doesn't seem there will be any immediate big changes either. Wednesday brought news that The Daily Show's senior creative staff, executive producers Steve Bodow, Jen Flanz, Tim Greenberg, Jill Katz and Adam Lowitt, are all staying on the program when the Noah era kicks off on Sept. 28.

For those producers and the writing staff, Noah emphasized that he would be leaning on them heavily. When asked about his fondness for impressions, and if he was concerned that any of them might offend anyone, Noah brought up the recent interview former Daily Show corespondent Wyatt Cenac, in which the black comedian recalled being yelled at by Stewart in the writers room after expressing concern about Stewart's on-air Herman Cain impression.

"You're trying to find the best voice of the show," said Noah. "I may be the face of the show, sharing that spotlight with the corespondents, but what you're doing is trying to find the best way to tell a joke. That's what the writers room is for. You're supposed to have that fight."

Though it did not lead the half-hour panel, Noah was eventually grilled on the controversy — many called out his past tweets about women and Jewish people as offensive — that defined the days immediately following the announcement that he'd be hosting The Daily Show.

"I don't strive to be offensive. That's not who I am as a person or a performer. But you can't control that," he said, carefully echoing his past comments that he didn't wish to be judged on years-old jokes. "I knew that there would be some sort of backlash. … What's interesting, and I'm happy about this, is that you saw the conversation go from 'Is this guy offensive?' to 'What is comedy?' That's a better conversation. And Comedy Central, fortunately, hasn't limited me to 140 characters."

It's been almost 17 years since Stewart took over The Daily Show and defined the telecast as a media monitor. And while Noah seems to have no plans to change that, he did acknowledge that the media landscape has changed considerably. "The Daily Show was based on this emerging 24-hour news cycle," he said, noting that has extended well past just cable news to digital venues. "The biggest challenge is how to bring in all of that and look at it in the bigger news instead of going after just one source which was, historically, Fox News."

As for where he sees The Daily Show in that media landscape, Noah, like his predecessor, insists that his top priority is still making people laugh. "I'm not in the news business, I'm still in the comedy business," he said. "That's the most important thing Jon Stewart instilled in me."

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