If CBS, with its choice of
The Noah experiment is nothing if not high-stakes. Stewart’s cultural footprint was Shaq-sized. He wasn’t just a comedian. He was, for the blue half of the country, anyway, a figure who bordered on Cronkite-esque. World leaders and presidential hopefuls lined up not to swing at softballs and slow-jam the news, but to field questions tougher than they might get on the Sunday-morning shows.
It became a trope — an exaggerated, but persistent one — that Generation Xers got their news from Stewart rather than traditional news outlets. Try as he might to insist that he was just a funnyman, he never approached the job as if trying to tuck America into bed at night. He wanted to and often succeeded at shaking the nation from its slumber, as evidenced by his parting thoughts at the end of his final broadcast in July, “The best defense against bullshit is vigilance. So if you smell something, say something.”
Stewart was also, arguably, the most important single person at Comedy Central (
The franchise was launched with the very blond
But that will be almost impossible to achieve. Late night is more fragmented than ever, with Colbert,
But what if Noah manages to mirror Stewart’s popularity in his impact? The idea that Trevor Noah should break news to his viewers was all but dismissed by current Comedy Central president Michele Ganeless when she spoke to TheWrap this summer.
“When the show was created, it was reflective of a 24-hour news cycle,” Ganeless said. “Now we and the show want to reflect the news cycle as it exists today. You can’t do that with just a half-hour show or repurposing the stuff we do at night to other platforms.”
“The Daily Show” is no more likely now to inform people of the news than anything else on television is. The news happens on the Internet. Television is simply a platform for its discussion.
Noah, Ganeless and all the other major players invested in “The Daily Show” appear to realize this, and are building the new show to fit that worldview. As they do, they are looking no doubt to the ways that Fallon and Kimmel rewrote the rules of late night, approaching the broadcast itself as a platform for segments that would go viral the next morning.
And Noah could be the guy to take that model to the next level. The guy has energy, polish and good looks. He’s also really, really funny. The ingredients are all there. Whether they cook up right remains to be seen.
Noah’s first promo for his version of “The Daily Show,” unveiled last month, was equal parts funny and hip, with the new host settling into his chair to the tune of Kanye West’s “Power.” It was an appropriate tune. But an even better one could have been pulled from an era that predates Noah and his generation of multiplatform viewers —