Trevor Noah's ascent on The Daily Show has been steep—hired on as senior international correspondent four months ago, he'll take over the anchor's desk from Jon Stewart after just three appearances on the show, Comedy Central announced Monday.
Noah, who is 31, brings an unusual background to the job: He's from South Africa, the son of a black woman and a white man, speaks six languages, and may be better known overseas than he is in the United States. (To give The New York Times a comment about his appointment, he had to call from a tour stop in Dubai, where he relayed his reaction: “You need a stiff drink, and then unfortunately you’re in a place where you can’t really get alcohol.”)
He takes over from Stewart, who's concluding a 16-year tenure, after a series of more seasoned Daily Show hands left the running: Stephen Colbert to David Letterman's Late Show chair, Larry Wilmore to Colbert's slot, Jason Jones and Samantha Bee to TBS. Despite a social-media push for Jessica Williams, she said she wasn't ready for the gig. (Comedy Central hasn't set a start day for Noah yet.)
In morphing from an 11 o'clock hour helmed by Stewart and Colbert to a block of Noah and Wilmore, Comedy Central is conducting a remarkable and perhaps unprecedented transformation. Stewart and Colbert represented (albeit self-deprecatingly) two classic manifestations of white American masculinity—the Jewish wiseacre and the Christian blowhard. With Noah and Wilmore, the hour remains male, but becomes (a bit) younger, less white, and more global in outlook. Even if that's not an intentional shift—“We talked to women. We talked to men. We found in Trevor the best person for the job,” Comedy Central President Michele Ganeless said—the effect is to set up a bold, even subversive experiment, extending the progressive politics espoused by the show into personnel decisions.