UPDATE 9 AM Thursday, adding names of panelists and moderator below.
EARLIER: If Bill Clinton was America’s first black president, The Daily Show host Trevor Noah quipped at an event Wednesday evening, Donald Trump might just be “our first African president.” Throughout a sizzle reel of Daily Show highlights, Trump was shown in medal-festooned uniform as Noah compared the presumptive Republican presidential nominee’s boasts (“Everybody loves me”) with those of Zimbabwe’s ruthless still-haning-on leader Robert Mugabe. Lulled by the relative predictability of the U.S election process, Americans are shocked by the chaos on the Republican side in the current race for the White House, Noah pbserved. But for the South Africa-raised observer of all things American, “this madness is how it’s supposed to be. This is very familiar to me.”
Flanked by most of his top staff — AKA “The Best F#@king News Team” — Noah noted that having a diverse group of writers with different takes on news events had helped him establish a clear break with The Daily Show under his predecessor Jon Stewart. The panel was smartly moderated by Andy Greenwald, late of Grantland, now of The Ringer, and included Ronny Cheng, Roy Wood Jr., Desi Lydic, Jordan Klepper, Adam Lowitt, Jen Flanz and Steve Bodow.
Indeed, it sometimes seemed as if there had been a directive not to mention Stewart’s name, leading to a few odd references to “the previous host.” The panel, which took place at the Paley Center for Media and was a For Your Consideration meet-and-greet for Emmy voters, also addressed the challenges of dealing with the repeated crisis of gun violence and the pressures of putting together a thoughtful show when, as Noah said, “the 24-hour news cycle is now a 24-second news cycle, it never ends.” With so much information going out into the ether, “you never know if it’s really urgent or not.”
Over drinks and finger food after the panel, I asked Noah how he was weathering the tumult at Comedy Central since early May, when corporate owner Viacom replaced the cable channel’s president, Michele Ganeless, with Kent Alterman. Alterman then promoted Sarah Babineau to SVP Original Programming and Development, East Coast. “It’s really had very little impact,” Noah said. “We have been so well insulated from all that by [Viacom Music and Entertainment Group president] Doug Herzog and his team that we are truly protected.” Asked earlier during the panel discussion what direction The Daily Show might take after the election, Noah again referenced Trump, this time his ouster of Washington Post reporters from covering his campaign. “First we’ll have to see whether there is a Daily Show after the election.”