HENRY CUTLER ’17
Last Thursday, Nov. 12, I was lucky enough to attend a live taping of “The Daily Show”. Although it no longer features America’s beloved host of 16 years Jon Stewart, The Daily Show offers a fresh new face, starring South African comedian Trevor Noah.
Born in Johannesburg, Noah comes from a mixed-race background and a complicated childhood. His first few comedic gigs were in South Africa, performing on various television shows and stand-up routines. Although posting some controversial tweets earlier in his career, Noah was still Comedy Central’s number one candidate to replace Stewart. He started the coveted job as host of the show in late September of this year.
The Daily Show is a left-leaning political satire program covering news stories from the week in a humorous fashion. It has been on the air since 1996 and has had only three different hosts.
The show itself is broken down into segments, the first of which the host (now Noah), opens the show with short, witty news stories covering each briefly. Noah then moves into a longer segment that is not filmed live, but where a correspondent will cover a story and maybe conduct an interview. Finally, there will be a longer segment dedicated to going in-depth, covering one specific issue. There will also be a guest appearance from a celebrity, politician, or musician who will, depending on the field, provide another form of entertainment.
I got to the studio, located at 11th Avenue and 51st Street in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of Manhattan, at about 4:30 in the afternoon—just as the sun was beginning to set. Many arrived hours before the show even started. The lines outside began to grow, and the general admission seating filled up; there were only enough spots for approximately 60 guests. Inside, the studio featured an array of LCD screens, all projecting “The Daily Show” signs and pictures of Noah. In center stage was a desk on an elevated platform, with one chair for Noah—no seats for guests or anyone else.
After finding my seat, one of the head technicians came out and gave the audience a lengthy yet comedic set of rules: “No bathroom breaks, no interruptions, and no stalking Trevor, no matter how big and cute his dimples are!”
Finally, a warm up comedian came on stage. To get the crowd pumped for the imminent show, he would have us scream and shout every time he said the words, “Trevor Noah.” He poked fun at everyone his eyes landed on, mocking their jobs and hometowns. While this was all in good fun, it was easy to sense the anticipation for Noah to make his appearance.
Noah came out wearing a navy blue skinny suit, smiling, dancing, and engaging the audience. His charisma, and distinct South African accent captured everyone’s attention.
Noah promised that if we gave him all of our energy, he would give all of his right back. He took about five questions from the audience before starting his show.
Before seeing this in person, I thought that The Daily Show was a much more inter-personal experience. Unfortunately, however, there were about four cameras and two technicians in between Trevor and the audience. Moreover, the technology did not always work as planned; Noah had to redo about four different takes throughout the show. We did get a chance to see him crack jokes and do a little improvisation with the audience during the “commercial” breaks.
His guest that night was Christine and the Queens, a French singer promoting her new album of the same name. She sang three different songs and claimed that the studio venue was “one of the strangest she had ever performed in.”
Although it is a 30-minute show (including commercial breaks) on television, The Daily Show process, from the time one lines up to enter the studio until the time one leaves, takes almost four hours. A true work of art, I definitely recommend both watching and attending if possible. Trevor Noah has big shoes to fill, and to me he is starting out his journey on the right foot.
The Daily Show with Trevor Noah airs on Comedy Central, weeknights at 11:00 PM Eastern.
HENRY CUTLER ’17