Trevor Noah’s ‘Daily Show’ Live Ratings Aren’t Thrilling — But That’s Not …

1 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

How Trevor Noah’s ‘The Daily Show’ is like a new iPhone.

The 31-year-old South African comic is only replacing Jon Stewart, one of the most gifted talk-show hosts ever to grace the tube. Trevor Noah continued his “war on bullshit” during his second episode of The Daily Show, calling out Ben Carson and Hillary Clinton for inauthentically aligning with Kanye West and Lena Dunham.In his review of Trevor Noah’s debut as Jon Stewart’s successor, the New York Times‘ Jim Poniewozik compares the new version of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” to a new iPhone—“sleeker, fresher and redesigned”—but doing essentially the same thing. “If Mr.

Not only was Stewart witty and biting and ironic, he had gravitas to burn, taking on an array of politicos and deep thinkers as well as the mandatory coterie of celebs — some of whom even had something to say. Filling the seat of the beloved Jon Stewart is a formidable job, the very prospect of which has left fans and curious media cautiously optimistic — heavy on the cautious.

Calling it “Panderdemic 2016,” Noah aired clips of politicians’ recent tendency for “pretending to like young people things,” including Marco Rubio sharing his thoughts on the Biggie and Tupac feud, and Carson’s advice for West to record uplifting music. In a segment called “Panderdemic 2016,” Noah addressed Kanye West’s regard for Carson and Carson’s shared respect for the rapper, even advising West to make more uplifting music. “Oh wow, Ben Carson’s giving Kanye West music advice,” Noah said, then in a monotone voice, mocked what a Carson mixtape would sound like. “Now I ain’t saying she’s a gold digger, but she ain’t messing,” Noah began, stopping before the N-word that would follow and pretending to fall asleep. The general mood seemed to be one of wishing the young comedian well and hoping for the best, but fully anticipating that he would need some time to “grow” into the role, perhaps after a slow start. And of Dunham’s recent interview with Clinton, in which he highlighted moments of forced enthusiasm, Noah pointed to Clinton’s own words to sum it all up: “‘If you can’t get excited, be pragmatic and do it anyway,'” he quoted. “That is the worst hype speech I’ve ever heard in my life!” The circumstances remain the same: Women are not dominating late-night television for the same reason that they’re not running most corporations or most countries.

Rookie host Trevor Noah went after President Obama’s awkward day with Russian President Vladimir Putin before pivoting to “investigate,” with only some sincerity, how ISIS makes money and how American candidates for president are pandering to young people. That algorithm, capable of processing a day’s media inputs into a satirically argued package, is what makes ‘The Daily Show’ ‘The Daily Show.’ This first outing was about proving that he could run the software without crashing.” That’s good, but neither “algorithm” nor “operating system” goes quite far enough. In Apple’s case, it’s a product creation process—taught at the graduate school level at Apple University—that defines and crystallizes a new category, which the rest of the industry then scrambles to copy. Some of our now-favorite late-night hosts who have recently taken over from previously successful and beloved predecessors have eventually ramped up to owning their own seats after slightly bumpy starts — Stephen Colbert’s first hesitant nights in David Letterman’s iconic chair, Larry Wilmore’s slightly awkward start in a new format during Stephen Colbert’s timeslot, Seth Meyer’s stiff delivery during his first several weeks on The Late Show, and Jimmy Fallon’s awkwardly sweaty first few Tonight Show episodes in Jay Leno’s chair. The method by which Apple accomplishes this is not well understood—especially on Wall Street, where Cupertino’s latest hit is generally assumed to be its last.

The process is often described—even by its CEO—as “magical” and other terms bordering on the mythic. “The culmination of this hypothesis,” wrote Asymco’s Horace Dediu in a 2013 essay Why doesn’t anybody copy Apple?, “is the ‘chief-sorcerer’ theory of success which places one magician in charge of casting all the right spells.” “It’s complex, it’s subtle, it defies explanation but it’s not magic. After beginning with less than dazzling impressions of French and Russian accents, he suddenly morphed into a raconteur with mucho bite as he deconstructed — with great hilarity and physicality — the trial of his former South African hero Oscar Pistorius. The Putin/Obama segment sailed without too much trouble, but this bogged him down a little in the ISIS segment, where Noah could not quite finesse the admittedly difficult balance between mocking idiocy and denouncing evil. Can you imagine what Stephen Colbert would have done with the observation that ISIS is celebrating 9/11, a terrorist attack they did not even perpetrate, by minting gold coins with the World Trade Center on them? Noah began his Daily Show shift on Monday, and on the basis of the first two nights, it’s both difficult and wrong to rush to judgment on whether he’s right for the job.

Noah’s energy and style are different from Stewart’s, but it seems clear that many of the old writers remain, giving the host witty material viewers love that he can deliver in his own voice. Or the face Jon Stewart would have made while watching the correspondents’ fake Home Shopping Network for Palmyrian antiquities, while clutching his sheets of light blue paper? As scholars who study gender and humor have pointed out, women’s humor ruffles feathers, with “gender stereotypes” hindering “the development and recognition of women’s humor.” At the same time, there’s no question that a long line of women would make brilliant empresses of late night programming; Tina Fey and Ellen DeGeneres would be effective, engaging, wildly entertaining and hilarious hosts. It is likely that as he gets more comfortable, he’ll become even more animated within the bounds of his own personal style, but he left more of the antics to his correspondents for the first episode.

Rubio is an easy target; West and Carson are more difficult, but with a Kardashian joke and a quick impression of Carson’s narcotic delivery style, Noah pulled both off. The one part of the show that did belie a bit of Noah’s newness was the interview segment, which is often the most awkward format for new hosts — sometimes even for the seasoned. I suspect that studio heads and the advertisers responsible for programming remain afraid that putting a women behind the desk will lead to a decline in male viewership. (Meanwhile, they don’t seem all too concerned about the female share.) It’s the 50-and-older crowd that reliably continues to tune into live programming for news and entertainment. However, his choice of Kevin Hart as his first interview guest was brilliant, as Hart’s general hyperactivity and nonstop chatter — always in a loud outside voice — prevented any of the common quiet moments or awkward pauses that often plague guest interviews.

There’s a lot to say about the perplexing existence of an exclusive Hillary Clinton interview on Lenny—about journalism, the conflation of celebrity and politics, the desperate repackaging of Clinton as “girly,” and hell, even the name of the newsletter, which is flat-out terrible. As for millennials, they’ve likely followed Jon Stewart for the last handful of years — but not his entire 16-year tenure — and will likely be just fine with his carefully picked replacement. But Noah went for low-hanging fruit—Dunham’s face when Clinton said she identified as a feminist was so over-the-moon happy, Noah said, in a way she hadn’t been since HBO’s offices went clothing-optional. And I’m quite comfortable with one of them.” He acknowledged that Stewart was “our voice, our refuge, our political dad” to a whole generation, and that now the family has “a new stepdad, and he’s black — which is not ideal.” But he did make this pledge to Stewart: “I’ll make you not look like the crazy old dude who left his inheritance to some random kid from Africa.” Later, he went a little blue and mischievous in musing about sexting with the help of Pope emojis, and in lamenting the sudden resignation of U.S.

As America’s most diverse generation to date, millennials can appreciate his upfront comedic enumeration of all of the things that he is clearly not — a woman, white and American. And while they, too, are comforted by the continuity offered by the familiar writers, comedic style and show format, they’re more open to change than, perhaps, some of Stewart’s older audience.

Perhaps more understandably, his dig at Clinton wasn’t much of one, either; he laughed at her non-enthusiasm when she described the process of voting, but he’s probably laying aside any real (and low-hanging) barbs until after he’s determined whether or not she’ll be a guest on the show. Along with a 31-year-old voice that represents their generation’s view of the world and current events, a fresh face and new wardrobe of chic slim-fit suits are quite appealing to millennials, and it doesn’t hurt that Noah gives very good face.

The closing joke of the segment went not for condemnation or mockery but for wry acknowledgement of a job well done, and that was to both Dunham and Clinton for making a joke about Lenny Kravitz’s penis. As for the discovery of water on Mars, Noah noted that while this was great news for NASA, it was depressing news for Californians, who can’t seem to find enough of it themselves. Even though Christopher Hitchens’ Why Women Aren’t Funny is now a few years old, it remains emblematic of his generation’s beliefs about a conventional, biological and historical inability to create comedy and humor. He addressed the fact that he’s young, black and African as opposed to American, without harping on any of these notable demographic differences, but still addressing the obvious in a totally appropriate — and quite comical — tongue-in-cheek style. Humorists are always at the head of their generation’s class, given their ability to willfully and wickedly push, prod and pinch their audiences into thought, emotion and laughter.

While Noah becomes comfortable in with his position, he’s leaving a lot of unused material on the table; there’s so much slack that could have been picked up in this episode, especially with the interview segment—with Whitney Wolfe, CEO of Bumble, a dating app. Noah demonstrated the slightly self-deprecating humor with just the right dose of humility that worked so well for Stewart, and enjoyed a bounty of current national and world news. The women who create humor articulate what’s ubiquitous but unspoken; they say, with wit and courage, what most of us are too cowardly or anxious to admit.

In much the same way that we need comedians of different racial backgrounds, female comedians can tackle subjects that are taboo, or that white male comedians can’t address with as much insight or depth. But what interested me was how interested Noah himself was in the topic—he seemed to want to address how women feel in dating, and what these differences in behavior might mean, but was unable to create a rapport with Wolfe until just a few seconds before the end of the interview. While they’re at it, the best of them help us find our own humor in the everyday; they help us remember to laugh at what we didn’t find funny the first time around.

By questioning, mocking and demystifying the world, funny women illustrate that humor is our culture’s third rail: electrified, powerful and dangerous. He ended the interview by mocking himself, a bit, and suggesting he join Bumble; Wolfe complimented his Instagram profile photos—and added it was likely women would message him often. When women’s voices are heard more effectively during the day in more places, I’m sure we’ll be able to have them heard above a whisper after midnight.

Curiously, the last we saw of Donovan in the Season 3 finale was our amoral fixer-for-hire, with a bullet wound, in tears and seeking redemption in a church that had forsaken him and his family in his youth — and the first we see of Carrie in Season 5 of Homeland is her praying in church and seeking some sort of salvation. Without divulging what transpires, let’s just say that Carrie’s old CIA buddies, avuncular Saul (Mandy Patinkin) and assassin Quinn (Rupert Friend), soon enter the fray.

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