My word: “Next-Gen”
“It was a time warp…you’re looking at the show; what people believe the show is, what people believe the show should be…you’re looking at beginning the journey, of creating what you would hope to be the next journey…what is your legacy? What are you trying to create…That was the only mandate Jon gave me was: make your show, make the show that you feel needs to be made. There is no daily show, the daily show is dead. This is now your show…”
-Trevor Noah (Interview with NPR)
New beginnings are often accompanied by the death of something else; it is accompanied by this idea of being reborn, of being redone, of being transformed. In a way, The Daily Show with Trevor Noah is very much a transformation and a rebirth. For those who have watched The Daily Show since it’s beginnings with Jon Stewart in 1999, the take over by Trevor Noah is a tremendous change.
In Satire’s Brew Lecture One: America’s Jester, author Brian Dunphy discusses Jon Stewart’s tremendous impact on American media and politics, comparing him to famous iconic media figures such as Walter Cronkite and Edward R. Murrow. According to the book, “media surveys have shown that the overwhelming majority of men and women under the age of 35 list The Daily Show with Jon Stewart as their primary source of television news”. This feat is not accomplished without a deep sense of trust that the American public must have had in him. In fact, Dunphy discusses the concept of trust, and how trust can often influence viewers. One of the primary reasons why Cronkite and Murrow were so famously popular with the public is because they had their trust. They knew what they were receiving was truth and they put their faith in that belief. According to Satire’s Brew, Stewart gained that trust with the American audience during the tragedy of 9/11. When reporting on the incident, Stewart apparently poured out his soul for the viewers and gave a “heartfelt, post-September 11 show”. He continued to portray his passions and heartache throughout his reporting of the Iraq War and the reelection of Bush in 2004. Through his neutral positioning, comedy and soul Jon Stewart connected with his viewers on a personal level, leading them through a darker period in American history.
Trust is something that is only built with time. For this reason, I feel that there cannot be any true analysis of The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. When I first watched the show with it’s new host, admittedly I was slightly disappointed. Although I was not a regular viewer of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, I often saw his fire and passion in the episodes that I did watch. He was forthright, bold and comical. I appreciated his message as well as his personality. When I watched the episodes with Trevor Noah, I did not see that passion that I had witnessed with Jon Stewart. The comedy and news-although different-was still present, but I did not quite see the heart of Noah in the episodes I had watched. I also felt that Noah was indeed attacking issues in America, but in a different way than Jon Stewart.
In my previous blog, My New Brew of Coffee, Satire’s Brew, I commented on episodes such as The Poor You Know & Did You Even Research This? and Mighty Morphin’ Position Changes in which Stewart pointed out some of the faults in Fox News, shedding light on its deceptive and hypocritical portrayal of news. In these episodes, Stewart challenged head on the errors made in current mass media. In the episodes I had watched with Noah, (November 18th’s Ted Koppel, November 17th’s Timbaland, November 16th’s David Holbrooke, November 9th’s Pras) this concept was not always entirely present. He seemed to focus more on individuals and issues rather than the depiction of the issues in mass media. These changes that I had noticed were a little disheartening, however, after rereading some of the passages in Satire’s Brew, I began to realize that Noah must first establish a relationship with his viewers. Jon Stewart is presently a main media figure, especially in the news world. However, it took two years for his audience to begin to put a real amount of faith in him. Stewart was allowed to evolve into his role over a period of years and he gradually gained the status that is awarded to him today. That status came with a very powerful reputation which allowed Stewart to be heard, respected and recognized. This did not come, however, within the matter of a day, or a month or even a year. A relationship is established on trust and trust takes time.
Noah is very well aware of this. He is also aware that he has some very big shoes to fill and that it will take time for the audience of Stewart to adjust to his perspective and sense of comedy. In fact, Noah comments on this very concept during his “Happy Hour” interview with NPR. Interviewer, Linda Holmes, asks Noah about his pattern on focusing on underlying issues rather than media coverages. She asks if Noah is more comfortable dealing with news in this manner, despite of his stated interests in the new trend of media coverages by companies such as BuzzFeed. Noah replied beautifully and gave a truthful answer. Noah states, “It’s about building the relationship first…it’s the same thing you would do in any conversation. I like to get to know people. I like for people to get to know me and the basic way we can do that is by talking about the issues themselves first ya know? A lot of people don’t realize or-or forget that Jon evolved into the man that he was at the end of his tenure. That was sixteen years of work that got him to that point and for you to try to rush that evolution, to try to rush that growth would be robbing myself, the show and the viewer of the opportunity to build a solid foundation that gets us to where we need to go…”.
Truthfully, after listening to some of the interview, I began to like Noah more. He was no longer just the man trying to fill in the role left behind by Stewart. He had his own character and style and sense of humor. In the end, I think that the audience of The Daily Show will have to break away and separate the image of the show itself and Jon Stewart. It is a hard thing to do especially considering that Stewart was beloved by his viewers. However, if Noah is to ever be given the chance to let his own personality shine through, this separation needs to occur.
Although I was admittedly a little disappointed, I have hope for the show and its new host. From the episodes that I have seen, Noah seems to utilize more current, modern trends of comedy and humor. Unlike Stewart (at least what I’ve seen of Stewart), Noah uses modern slang like “bae” and “hashtag”. In his own way, Noah is keeping up with the times, drawing in a new audience of the younger generations. It is because of this that Noah reminds me slightly of John Oliver. While media has evolved constantly over the years to the point where profanity and violence aren’t as shocking as they were in my father’s generation, Oliver, to me, still brings about an air of modernism to politics. Oliver appears to use and portray more crude humor than Stewart. This can be offending, particularly to the older generations, thus leaving the younger generations to watch and enjoy his show. Noah also reminds me of Oliver because, although it is not done that often, he uses jokes that can often be quite offensive. My favorite one was during November 18th’s episode in which he talks about Ben Carson and his avoidance in answering the question of who he would call first if the Paris attack happened on his watch. Noah, excitedly states, “Ghostbusters! Come on! Everybody knows the right answer to that question! You can go to any African country and ask a little kid, ‘who you gonna call?’. He’ll be like, ‘GHOSTBUSTERS! And UNISEF I’m hungry.’”.
Next-Gen; that was the word that came to my mind when I watched The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. Even though it is a slang word, I think that this word describes the show on many levels from the “next generation” sense of humor, to the possible attraction to the show of the next generation of young adults to Noah’s take over for Stewart. I look forward to seeing how Noah reshapes the concept of The Daily Show and how he reshapes the next generation of America.