But in an odd way, moving to that program might seem like a demotion for Noah. It’s later in the evening in a spot where he would always be No. 2 to the network’s primary late night host, Stephen Colbert. Since ABC’s host Jimmy Kimmel just re-upped for three more years and all the top dog late night hosts are relatively young, taking Corden’s gig might require Noah to wait an awfully long while for his shot at the big job.
That’s all bad news for late night TV, which really needs a host like Noah; a talented, biracial, South African comedian who filled some of the biggest shoes in the business when he took over The Daily Show from venerated host Jon Stewart.
Slowly and with a consistent, relentless creativity, Noah and his team reshaped the program to feature a younger, more diverse and internationalist perspective, feeling more like the future of the medium than anything on the Big Three broadcast networks.
Succeeding by following a TV legend
Noah took over The Daily Show in September 2015. Back then, he was a 31-year-old rising star who had appeared on the show a handful of times before his hiring was announced.
He survived a scandal before he even appeared on camera as host—centered on terrible jokes about Jewish people, women’s bodies and their weight that he had posted on Twitter years earlier. In his first episode as host, Noah joked about reports that better-known celebrities like Chris Rock had turned down the job by cracking “once more, a job Americans rejected, is now being done by an immigrant.”
One of my favorite early bits of his was a commentary comparing Donald Trump, then an outlandish candidate for president, to some of the more infamous African presidents, like Uganda’s Idi Amin and Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe—in some cases, showing how they use the exact same words to brag about themselves and put down rivals.
He even remixed the show’s theme song, debuting a new take produced by Timbaland and King Logan in early 2016, amping up the rock flavor and adding a percolating, club-friendly beat.
Jon Stewart had turned The Daily Show into a serious player by grounding the show’s humor in real news events, pointing out the radicalization of the Republican party, the hypocrisy of the Democratic party and the cluelessness of news media which too often failed to expose either.