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On Friday morning, Trevor Noah invited approximately 60 journalists to the Daily Show studio in New York City for a thorough briefing of what to expect on the Comedy Central show.
“I know they know what they’re doing — I’m the wildcard, so they’re the ones that should be afraid!” he laughed of leading the seasoned staff.
Though taking over for Jon Stewart after his 16-year run, Noah isn’t afraid: “I grew up mixed, I grew up in mixed environments, so I’ve never been afraid to go into a different space and relate to those people because I’ve always gone, I don’t have a place where I belong, so therefore I belong everywhere.”
Here are 9 things to know about Noah’s version of The Daily Show:
An inquisitive angle. “I myself am born and raised in South Africa, but I’ve lived in many places all over the world, so I’ve always seen myself as a citizen of the world. For the show, I think we’re going to mirror that. We have view on the world, there are stories are happening everywhere,” he said of his perspective. “I’m living in America, and these are the things that I’m seeing day to day. For instance, something like a Republican debate — which I wouldn’t have necessarily had full access to living outside the U.S. — is now in my face and means a lot more to me, so it’s natural for me to watch it and comment with the team,” with both his incoming perspective and his staff’s encyclopedic knowledge.
“I’m not afraid to say I don’t know. I don’t know everything. Jon didn’t know everything and it took him sixteen years to get where he is,” he continued. “The fun part is the learning. … When you have a child, they learn new things, and you relearn it with them and go, ‘Oh yeah, that’s a strange thing. Why do we spell words like that? Why do we say things like that? Why is the world like this?’ We get to re-ask those questions.”
A fresh set. Though reminiscent of Stewart’s set, the studio is now outfitted with a new logo and massive touchscreens for new correspondent interaction, plus a better viewing experience for the live audience. “I love the old set — strangely enough, it felt like home,” he explained of the changes. “We really tried to create a modular space that we can play with over time.”
More music. Tune in for more musical guests on the late-night show, beginning with Ryan Adams on Thursday. “Yes, we’re definitely going to be doing more music. It’s a great way to end the week,” said Noah.
Personal political targets. Noah promises he’ll have onscreen enemies, but they’ll be discovered on his own. “I come in on a clean slate … where I don’t have any preconceived notions of how I should or shouldn’t feel about them,” Noah noted. “I didn’t have Fox News in most places where I was living [and] traveling. These are new people for me. I watch Fox News and I’m waiting for those moments. … I get to discover the person that I will grow to loathe and hate. It may not be on Fox News, and that’s the exciting thing. … If you go, ‘I have a target,’ then you have blinders on. You’re gonna be so focused on that target that you don’t try to get to where you should be getting to and that’s the truth of what’s happening.”
Breaking web stories. The host expanded on his comment at TCA that he’d like to look beyond TV for material. “Our go-to source is no longer dictated by a small group of cable news outlets. We have to expand our view because sometimes the story is made and breaks on Twitter, and we have to find a way to react to that,” he said. “There’s news that happens in different spheres that’s just as interesting and that can be made just as funny, but it isn’t necessarily in the normal news medium.”
A position of progress. Noah said that personally, he is “neither left nor right” and aims to “point out on both sides what I think is right or wrong, or trying to find the truth of the matter, without saying, ‘I have to choose this truth because this is my side.’ ” He added that he sees himself as a progressive person (in a general sense, not by political definition): “I try to improve myself and try to, by and large, improve the world that I’m in in the smallest way possible. I know I cannot change the entire world, but I’ve always believed that I can at least make change in my world, so I try and do that. … I do believe that progression can come from both sides. In my opinion, liberal and conservative instinctively should be a place where people say, ‘This is how we aim to progress, this is how we feel progression should be approached,’ as opposed to saying, ‘We do not want to progress,’ or ‘We do want to progress.’ “
South African punch lines. The South-African comedian isn’t seeking specifically to subvert African stereotypes, but told reporters, “I’m not afraid to make a joke about those things because sometimes I think you can use those things to get to a different place. … I love Ebola jokes. When done in the right way, it gets people learning about Ebola, maybe. It gets people understanding the stigmas behind, the identities held by Africans and so on. That’s why comedy is a great tool. It’s finding that place where you can use humor to enlighten people without preaching to them.”
Gradual changes. Noah clarified that he is neither “getting rid of” Stewart or “continuing” his reign, as journalists often ask him, but starting in the middle. “I look at the Daily Show a beautiful house I’ve inherited … I’m not going to break the house down and start trying to build a house from there. I go, ‘This is a beautiful house that has been here for many years, it’s a landmark.’ So what I’ll try to do is build it into the home of my dreams, using my new family and as time goes on, breaking down a wall here, changing a color here, moving a counter there — but you’ll know there’s a new person living in the house because you’ll be complaining about the noise!” he explained. “Just myself in the chair, and the style and the manner which we approach stories, will be enough of a change initially. I’m not going to try and do too much at once.”
Lots of confidence. Noah is 31 years old, which makes him more relatable to millennials, but possibly unqualified in the eyes of older viewers. Still, Noah reassured that the series still has its seasoned writing staff. “It’s the Daily Show With Trevor Noah — that’s a key thing, because the Daily Show itself has the ability to say things,” he explained. “You shouldn’t say, ‘I’m not gonna listen to that kid even though he’s speaking the truth.’ … Truth is truth, regardless of who is saying it.”
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