Like the majority of people who view what is still archaically referred to as “late night” television, I now consume that content almost exclusively online and at odd hours. Some days, depending upon how much else was going on, I wouldn’t even watch the YouTube uploads of the likes of Stephen Colbert, Seth Meyers, the two Jimmys or the James, that noted favorite of upscale waiters from coast to coast.
But I would, without fail, always find a moment to respond to an alert from a Trevor Noah upload. Whether it was his DAILY SHOW monologue, a Tik Tok-like clip from one recent one or my Saturday morning walk staple that provided a compliation of the previous week’s best, WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED THIS WEEK?, I would never fail to laugh and think while getting my steps in.
Since he was tasked with filling Jon Stewart’s impressive cultural shoes when he took over THE DAILY SHOW in 2015, just one year after he joined the show as a Senior International Correspondent after a short stint as a late night host in his native South Africa, Noah’s presence and star grew materially, even if his audience remained relatively small. While Stewart was (and is) able to curate the views of millions through words, Noah was able to communicate an even more global and diverse array of provocative comedy through a remarkable ability to channel voices, If Lon Chaney was the man of a thousand faces, it is arguable that Noah is a man of a thousand voices, At least.
And through the lens of a foreign-born Black man, particularly one who came from a nation with the history of apartheid and who was raised in a culture impacted by Nelson Mandela, Noah’s perspective was, at least to me, especially thoughtful. And for as much talent as is exemplified elsewhere by writers and contributors of diverse backgrounds, Noah’s on-camera presence was especially impactful–and, in a world as polarized as the one we now live in, all the more needed.
Noah signed off as DAILY SHOW host last night. We knew it was coming for months, but with all that has happened even this week in this uncomfortably disparate climate (see Warnock, Walker and Griner), his exit will leave a particularly gaping void, especially as we now head into a span where the House and Senate will be controlled by two different parties.
With an uncanny ability to channel flawless impersonations of both Barack Obama and Donald Trump, and with a delivery that can only be described as both eye-rolling and melodic with his appealing South African accent, Noah eventually rose to the position of influencer and contributor in Washington that both Stewart and Stephen Colbert, another Daily Show alum, achieved. Recognizable and respected within the Beltway, even though he grew up tens of thousands of miles away.
So last night, for a change, I felt I had to actually watch on TV, in late night. Thanks to DIRECTV, I was even able to watch the episode on East Coast time. And it was worth it. Noah’s final thoughts not only thanked his writers and crew (so deserved!) but also thanked Black women in general:
“I’ve often been credited with having these grand ideas,” he said. “Who do you think teaches me, who do you think has shaped me, nourished me, informed me. From my mom, my gran, my aunts, all these black women in my life but then in America as well. I always tell people if you truly want to learn about America, talk to Black women. Because unlike everybody else Black women can’t afford to fuck around and find out. Black people understand how hard it is when things go bad.”
I’m ashamed to admit I don’t have enough such influences in my life. But when I do have the chance to encounter them, I’m often stunned how accepting and compassionate those that I do meet are, despite my obvious differences. And, frankly, Noah was, too–and I sure hope he still will be, regardless of how frequently or publicly his next act will be available to be seen.
The current plan for THE DAILY SHOW is, like many other shows who lose their host, to conduct a series of on-camera auditions. The announced list will include a diverse array of talents and voices, including Chelsea Handler, Kal Penn, Al Franken, Sarah Silverman, Leslie Jones, Wanda Sykes, D.L. Hughley, John Leguizamo, Marlon Wayans and Hasan Minhaj. That pretty much hits all the possible tick marks of diversity hires–including white men over 40.
Which, for the moment, now represents the entire array of current late night hosts.
But for as much as some may feel a diverse face is necessary, I would urge those in charge to hire a diverse VOICE (or voiceS) to try and fill Noah’s shoes. We need to listen, not just look, We need to process, not just mindlessly hit “thumbs up” emojis.
Frankly, I’d urge those at Comedy Central to look somewhere else beyond this list of familiar names and faces. Few people outside of the Viacom world knew TONIGHT WITH TREVOR NOAH existed on M-Net. CBS breathren looked out of the box to replace Craig Ferguson with a cherubic British-born stage actor. Before that, they replaced Bob Barker with an obese sitcom star. This might be a golden opportunity to find someone we’d have to go deep into Google search to find an image of. That person is out there somewhere. I’m not sure it’s among those who will be stopgap replacements as the search mounts.
We know Paramount Global has the history and chops to find that person. It won’t be an easy search. I’d love to help it along. It’s important to get this right. THE DAILY SHOW is a valuable franchise, regardless of where and how it is now watched. I still believe the right choice could conceivably find its way onto the general Paramount+ platform and run both on Comedy Central and CBS and fill multiple voids, not to mention get a head start on what I strongly believe streaming television needs–a day-and-date (live?) show with recency, impact and resonance.
George Cheeks? Chris McCarthy? Jen Flanz? You hear me?
TTFN, Mr. Noah. May the replacement(s) for your thousand voices be as loud and as funny as yours.
Until next time…