By Carly Petrone
Trevor hh certainly captivated the audience at last weekend’s Vulture Festival. The newly-appointed host of The Daily Show sat down with New York Magazine‘s Rembert Browne to discuss how he’s shaping the show as well as his take on America today.
Trevor Noah opened up the conversation by addressing the huge task of taking over such a beloved late-night slot. The South African-born comedian had a mature answer when Browne jokingly asked, “You’re 32…That’s what you do at the end of your career [host a late night show]. Do you feel, like, normal?”
“I do feel normal…I watched Letterman and Leno and you think you have to be an older man. But then there’s guys like Fallon and Conan and you realize we are in the beginning of a new cycle. For example, if you only know a flower when it is in bloom. When you see a seed you’re like ‘what the hell is this thing? That’s not a flower.’ Jon Stewart said to me, ‘I see me in you when I was starting out. No one else could see that but it has to start somewhere.’ I’m at the beginning of that cycle.”
Noah was quick to correct Browne when he compared this election cycle to a “flat out circus.”
“A circus is planned. It’s a very well-oiled and well run machine. There’s no chaos in the circus,” said Noah. He also pointed out that not being able to vote in this election is both a gift and a curse. “It’s a curse because people think ‘how can you feel the passion that we feel’ but at the same time it’s a gift because I’m not swayed by having this belief about the other team. That’s the biggest thing that holds politics back. It’s become a team sport as opposed to moving the country forward.”
When asked about whether or not his “outsider’s perspective” has been welcomed, he stated exactly why his opinion matters as well as what he’s trying to build with his audience. “It’s not an outsider’s perspective. It’s an insider’s perspective. I am a human being, living in the U.S. I am a representation of many people that have done the same thing I have – gone to another country and started a new life. I am the people that Trump wishes to build a wall for… You are a human being first and foremost. Where you are from shapes your views but where you are is a large determining factor on how you think. Over time that’s what I’ve built with the audience. This is my show. This is who I am.”
Noah referenced Jon Stewart once more, explaining that it was the former host who told him to embrace his insider’s perspective. “He [Jon] was my Yoda. He said ‘Don’t make my show. This is what the show should be and represent you and what you believe is important in the world.’ That’s what I set out to do every day.”
As the man at the helm of The Daily Show, Noah must consume an excessive amount of news. From waking up and watching morning shows like CBS This Morning, to quickly moving onto his phone to check sites like CNN and The New York Times — he is constantly inundated with news. He also makes it a point to check alternative sources in order to “see what everyone is looking at in the world.” There’s even a second team that watches hours of content just so the show can be fully up to date when it comes time to taping in front of a live audience.
Noah is most acutely aware of how quickly we, as a society, move on from the news topics. Before we have the chance to think or feel anything, it’s time to move onto the next story. “Unfortunately, I feel the one thing we suffer a lack of in this day and age is what we have benefited in the quantity of information we forfeited the quality of process in time. How much time do we have to sit and go ‘what does this mean? Have you seen this? How do you feel?’ We are onto the next news cycle.”
He mentioned Donald Trump as someone who currently uses this tactic. “Trump has mastered the art of moving us onto the next news cycle. He said ‘Ted Cruz’s dad assassinated Kennedy.’ What? What just happened? ‘And I will not release my tax returns.’ Now we’ve already forgotten about the assassination. ‘Did you talk to John Miller about this?’ Who is John Miller?…It’s almost like we can’t keep up.”
Noah also admitted that he doesn’t quite understand the American election when it comes to the relationships between candidates themselves. “In South Africa if someone says the other is a liar and a scumbag, that’s not how you build friendships. That’s the end of the discussion,” Noah said. “On the Republican side everyone said ‘Donald Trump is the worst thing that could happen to this country, he cannot be commander-in-chief, you cannot trust him, you cannot have him, you cannot have him, he’s the worst thing ever, I’m dropping out of the race, and I think we can all agree that Donald Trump is the best choice for president.’ What just happened there? That for me is where you see they are playing a game with the people. I can’t get over that…It’s entertainment and it’s wrapped in a pastry of politics.”
One thing that was certainly evident was that Trevor Noah is a great advocate for open communication. He attributes this to growing up in a religious household. “My mom and I would have huge arguments about religion… She let me challenge her views and religion if I could come with logical arguments and then she would reply with with one and we would go back and forth. She taught me to apply my mind to a problem. It’s not just wrong or right.”
Noah has applied this logic to his hosting job by allowing himself to take the time to break issues down to its core parts in order to come up with a conclusion. “I acknowledge the other side of the argument and I understand it but when you get to the logical point there is always the truth…Am I willing to discover something that will completely change how I see this? Am I willing to admit that I’ve been wrong? We will find the truth. That’s what I’m trying to create on the show. I don’t care what side. Let’s find the truth. We finding it in a funny way is the most important thing. Otherwise we’re just an almanac.”
Noah circled back by sharing the biggest piece of advice that Jon Stewart ever gave him. “He said ‘My show is done. People won’t acknowledge that but you know which way I’m going to go, you know where I’m gonna fall on this, you know how I’m gonna do it. My show is done. I’m angry, and I’m tired, and I’m moving on.’ So I said to him, ‘What’s The Daily Show supposed to be?’ And he said, ‘There is no such thing as The Daily Show. The show is shaped by the host. You are the person that gives it life. You are the person that guides it. You need to make the show what you believe the show needs to be.’”
We have feeling he’ll do just fine.