So many questions about Trevor Noah, the new host of "The Daily Show," starting Monday night (Comedy Central at 11). Let's try to answer some, shall we?
Who is Trevor Noah?
He's a 31-year-old South African of mixed-race parentage -- his mother Xhosa, his father Swiss -- who often said, or joked, that he was the progeny of a "crime" in apartheid South Africa. He's had a long stand-up career, here and overseas, and joined "The Daily Show" as a contributor in 2014.
Why Trevor Noah?
Not a frivolous question. Comedy Central talked to others -- Amy Schumer, Amy Poehler, Chris Rock -- who declined, so that ostensibly makes him fourth choice.
You still haven't answered the question. Why?
Very well -- I will. He's telegenic. He's also a very confident stand-up with a sly, rueful wit and a sharp observational eye and ear. His gift for mimicry -- notably, a variety of accents from around the world -- almost rivals Jimmy Fallon's. That confidence, assuming it's not an act, will be a huge asset.
What about those tweets?
Yeah, those tweets -- a few dumb one-offs he posted some years ago that made him appear sexist, even boorish, and which were uncovered after his appointment was announced. He apologized, essentially calling them a foolish, youthful blunder. The storm passed, but the PC police remain both vigilant and skeptical.
What's his chief challenge going in?
You mean, besides replacing a legendary host who served a unique and indispensable role in the media diet of millions of viewers for 16 years? Not to mention, often as a lacerating comic proxy for their anger at the insufferable vapidity of cable TV news, politics, Washington, and a long line of marionettes, charlatans, wastrels and other assorted public figures? I can't imagine what that challenge would be . . . But seriously, folks. He has to replace Jon Stewart. Come on.
What's his chief advantage?
I'm going to go to Rob Kutner for an answer to this one. Kutner was a long time Emmy-winning writer with "TDS," now with "Conan," also a comic book author; his latest, "Shrinkage," about nano-aliens, can be read at FarragoComics.com, by the way.
"The good news is that Jon has sort of built up an apparatus and group of people who shared the common mindset of 'The Daily Show,' so it has a momentum of its own. Trevor can step in with a bunch of people who are great at grabbing the most outrageous news of the day, and slap that together as the show's own take on what's happening. It's always been a moving train, and he's just a highway bandit, so to speak, who has to jump on it by horseback with all guns blazing.
"His challenge will be the obvious -- the Not Jon factor -- and he has to give his own comic voice to the show without doing a pale imitation. But the audience will still be expecting a certain amount of the no-BS take on everything that's being spun everywhere else."
Kutner adds that the word he's picked up from inside the writers' room is all positive -- that Noah indeed has the chops.
What does Noah hope to do?
At the recent TV critics' press tour, Noah spoke mostly of what he won't do -- notably maintain an obsessive devotion to Fox News, which Stewart treated as his daily piñata. He's also not a Stewart wannabe: "We're still dealing with the same issues. It's just a different angle we're looking at things from, and it's my angle, really. I'm taking things in a slightly different direction, but to the same endpoint."