“I’m not in the news business. I’m in the comedy business,” Trevor Noah said today about taking over Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, his comments coming the morning after that show’s current host Jon Stewart went on the air to discuss his two private visits to the White House to meet with President Obama about the program’s coverage of Obama’s administration.
Stewart’s role in the country “became bigger and bigger in the media landscape because of what he was saying,” Noah told journalists this morning at TCA, by way of making the distinction. “I hope in time to have that same impact…I don’t think I’ve earned that. I have to work very hard to achieve that,” Noah said, adding. “My job at first is to be extremely funny.”
Noah, who often references being the son of a black woman and a white man in apartheid-era South Africa, also was asked about former Daily Show writer/correspondent Wyatt Cenac’s allegations Stewart exploded at him in front of the show’s staff when Cenac said he was uncomfortable with Stewart’s imitation of 2012 Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain.
“You’re supposed to fight” in the writers room, Noah insisted, defending Stewart. “That’s what the writers’ room is about… you’re supposed to be passionate,” and the debates are about “trying to find the best voice for the show” and “the way to tell the best joke about the world in which we’re living.”
“Any joke can be seen as offensive by anyone,” Noah added, insisting the internecine fracas over the Cain bit was “not about” the accent Stewart had used.
“I don’t think anybody’s accent is inherently funny,” said Noah, who describes himself often, and did again, as “most of the time I’m a mimic – I speak seven languages.”
Going forward, it appears Fox News Channel is off the hook to a large degree on The Daily Show, but CNN and MSNBC not so much, based on Noah’s answers to questions lobbed his way. With Noah as anchor, the show will not continue to take shots at Fox News for its stances, because the channel is not so relevant, Noah indicated, noting Gawker and other sites from which his generation gets its information. “The biggest challenge is how to bring all of that together and look at it through the bigger lens, as opposed to going after one source which, yes, historically was Fox News,” Noah added. Sorry FNC.
But MSNBC and CNN as object of ridicule for their “buffoonery,” as one journalist described Stewart’s shtick, is “something we will look to maintain,” Noah said.
One journalist wondered how many of the incidents he used in his comedy performance last night were “real and how much embellished or made up. “Everything is real I do in comedy,” Noah said. “I obviously exaggerated for comedic effect, but I find reality the funniest thing of all. All of the stories I tell are true.”
The reporter then asked which airline it was that had sprayed pesticide inside the plane when he and other passengers leaving Africa were boarding on their way to the U.S., which he’d said in his performance for the journalists last night had happened at the height of the Ebola scare in this country.
“Oh, wow. You got me there,” Noah responded, explaining, “I fly a lot” and that his is a “videographic memory, not photographic.”
“It wasn’t as horrific as I made it sound” for comedic purposes, Noah said.
Introducing Noah this morning, Comedy Central’s president of content development and original programming Kent Alterman said the entire senior team at The Daily Show will continue to work on the series with its new host “to bring it into the new multi-platform era” adding, “We are really happy they want to continue working with Noah.” Those remaining with the show include current executive producers Steve Bodow, Jen Flanz, Tim Greenberg, Jill Katz and Adam Lowitt.
In a note of appreciation Alterman said the network “will be forever” in Stewart’s debt “for all of the obvious ways but so many intangible and immeasurable ways.”