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The Case For Giving Trevor Noah a Chance

Why experience, and room to grow, can trump a thousand armchair thinkpieces.

Image courtesy of Comedy Central.

Early into Trevor Noah’s first broadcast as host of The Daily Show, he promised the audience he’d “continue the war on bullshit.” It was a reference to beloved former host Jon Stewart’s parting words on his final broadcast and a confident way to kick off a new era. When you are newly at the helm of a pop culture product that a loyal viewer following holds so precious, it’s a courtesy to tip your hat to the man who made it so. But for Noah’s debut, it was also a necessity.

On the heels of the announcement that he would be taking over the post, there was a flurry of Internet deep-diving to “expose” Noah as a hack and unqualified to do the job. (Google “Trevor Noah not funny” and you’ll find pages of collected years-old tweets with the “evidence.”) And yes, a lot of the quips from Noah’s past were pulled from low-hanging fruit—namely “fat chicks” and dubious racial commentary—but, hey guess what, we’re supposed to get better at our jobs over time.

But before Noah could even utter the first words of his inaugural monologue, he was already being scrutinized. Writer and UPenn professor Sophia A. McClennan essentially “precapped” how he would fare as host over at Salon—good for FOX News, bad for the audience. While her piece was heftily supported by evidence of Stewart’s excellence at political satire and a critique of Noah’s international perspective (which is, arguably, a good thing as the presidential campaign and the issues of our global relations and positions on immigration continue to ramp up), it was missing one key thing from its critique: An actual episode of The Daily Show with Noah at the helm.

Noah, new correspondent Roy Wood Jr., and TDS’s writing staff all performed well last night, riffing on the newly-discovered flowing water on Mars (with apt racial commentary that is becoming part of Comedy Central’s fabric) and John Boehner’s departure as Speaker Of The House. It was with the latter that they were able to make even more fun of how much Noah seems unwelcome by the public, using the name John/Jon as marker for fear of change. And, again, no matter the host, “Jon Is Gone” jokes would have been written.

What doesn’t need to be written, however, are “hot takes” on something that doesn’t yet exist. And the main takeaway from last night’s show should be that new things not only need time to breathe before they are put under a microscope, but also need to happen before declarations can be made about what they are. McClennan wrote, “Thus far Noah seems to neither get the significance of ‘Bullshit Mountain’ nor even care.” Instead, it was the first pledge Noah made behind the desk. Perhaps thinkpiece writers should make that vow, too.

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