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The comedian announced the news during Thursday’s episode of the Comedy Central late night series. He debuted as host in Sept. 28, 2015, following the departure of Jon Stewart, who had previously made the show a go-to for water-cooler conversation and must-see moments with his biting take on political debate and current events.
“I realized after the seven years, my time is up, but in the most beautiful way,” Noah told the audience Thursday. “I’ve loved hosting this show. It’s been one of my greatest challenges. It’s been one of my greatest joys. I’ve loved trying to figure out how to make people laugh even when the stories are particularly shitty on the worst days.”
Noah, the youngest of the late night hosts at just 38, explained that returning to stand-up after a two-year hiatus amid the pandemic led him to realize he wanted to continue exploring other aspects of his life. The South Africa-born performer, who currently spends his weekends on an immensely lucrative global tour, aptly titled Trevor Noah: Back to Abnormal, went on to thank the network and show’s team for giving him a chance when he was then-unknown in the States.
Although he did not specify a timeline for how soon he would leave, he made it clear it would not happen immediately and that details were still being ironed out. “I’m not disappearing — don’t worry. If I owe you money, I’ll still pay you,” Noah quipped.
The news comes at a time of significant change for the late night landscape. Earlier this year, James Corden announced he would be stepping down as host of CBS’ The Late Late Show in 2023, while Showtime’s Desus & Mero and TBS’ Full Frontal With Samantha Bee have also recently ended their runs. The same could be said for Noah’s network, Comedy Central, which is far from the comedy hub it was when Noah joined.
To be sure, Noah’s star has continued to rise since starting on The Daily Show, which initially featured host Craig Kilborn when co-creators Madeleine Smithberg and Lizz Winstead launched the show in 1996. He emceed the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in April, the same month in which he marked his second consecutive appearance as host of the Grammy Awards. He is also a best-selling author, with a cadre of entertainment projects in various stages of development.
His stint on The Daily Show gained momentum with the 2016 election of former President Donald Trump, bringing a ratings bump and awards clout that the series, previously an Emmys darling during Stewart’s era, had lost after the transition. In a 2019 THR cover story, Noah identified election night 2016, and what he called “Hurricane Trump,” as the moment that he felt he came into his own and stopped feeling like Stewart’s replacement.
Having come of age under apartheid, the comic recognized on that evening that what seemed horrifying to so many in the Comedy Central audience felt familiar to him. Noah saw in Trump both the attributes and governing style of an African dictator, which he showcased in a Daily Show segment that swiftly went viral. For the first time since he began, Noah’s outsider perspective felt like an asset. In the years since, his iteration of the show has earned a Peabody and five consecutive Emmy nominations for best variety talk series.
The show has long been known as a springboard for top comedy talent, having played a part in the ascension to stardom of such notable alums as Bee, Oliver, Stephen Colbert, Ed Helms, Steve Carell, Hasan Minhaj and Jessica Williams. Its current roster of correspondents includes Roy Wood Jr., Desi Lydic, Ronny Chieng, Michael Kosta and Dulcé Sloan.
Though The Daily Show is hardly the linear draw it was in Stewart’s era, or even Noah’s earlier days, it did remain something of a crown jewel at Comedy Central during a period of seismic change and diminishing power. Original offerings at the Paramount-owned network are a fraction of what they once were, and as the company shifts more and more attention to its streaming efforts, the question of who replaces Noah is just as pressing as where and how The Daily Show might be presented moving forward.
The timing of Noah’s departure is, at least, not as dramatic as that of his predecessor in 2015. Stewart left The Daily Show on the eve of a presidential election year, one that proved to be (at the time, anyway) the most fraught in U.S. history. The Daily Show, like all politically skewing late night offerings, gets a viewership boost during election years — and The Daily Show initially suffered from having to introduce a then-unknown to audiences looking for a familiar face to chronicle the Trump-Clinton election. With Noah likely staying put through the midterms, producers have more of a runway to get someone situated in the new role ahead of 2024.
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