Trevor Noah debuts as Daily Show host, but will Bassem Youssef remain a show regular post Jon stewart?
Trevor Noah debuts as new Daily Show host following Jon Stewart's departure after 17 years as host. (Facebook)
South African superstar comic Trevor Noah hosted his first episode of the US satirical television news programme The Daily Show late Monday, replacing popular comedian and commentator Jon Stewart after 16 years.
"I can only assume that this is a strange for you as it is for me," he opened with a straight tone. "Jon Stewart was more than just a late-night host ... in many ways our political dad."
Noah's debut was closely watched by fans of Stewart, in the chair since 1999, and who redefined The Daily Show as a popular source of left-leaning criticism of US current affairs, sending ratings to more than 2 million viewers a night.
"This is surreal for me," Noah said, before striking a more comedic note. "Growing up in the dusty streets of South Africa, I never dreamed... well two things really, an indoor toilet, and a job as host of the Daily Show. And now I have both. And I'm quite comfortable with one of them."
He also addressed criticism that one of the top jobs in US showbusiness was not given to a woman, despite the gender's underrepresentation in comedy, nor even to a US citizen.
Individuals in both categories had been offered the position, he said. "But once more, a job Americans rejected is now being done by an immigrant."
He promised Stewart to work hard and "make you not look like the crazy old dude who left his inheritance to some random kid from Africa."
Noah made light of his status as an outsider on a show that focusses mostly on domestic US issues.
A reference to a recent success by baseball team the Mets drew appreciative applause, but he followed with "I don't know what that is, but Jon told me it would work."
Much of the show was tamer than either Noah's or Stewart's earlier work, poking gentle fun at the pope-themed emoticons that appeared on social media during the papal visit, and at departing House Speaker John Boehner.
A brief joke on AIDS, and another referencing the fatal drug overdose of singer Whitney Houston, were the closest he came to being barbed in his opening night.
Noah was almost unknown in the US before his selection by broadcaster Comedy Central for the Daily Show.
His enraged comic monologues and slicing political criticism often went viral on social media, reaching far greater audiences online than the Daily Show's television ratings.
But he faces a tough gig stepping into the chair vacated by Stewart, who was named "most trusted newscaster" in the US by a 2009 TIME magazine poll despite not being a newscaster at all.
The biracial son of a black Xhosa mother and a white European father, Noah, 31, often delves into racial politics and social commentary in his comedy.
He jokes that he "was born a crime" in apartheid-era South Africa. In a 2013 appearance on The Daily Show, where he had appeared just three times before being named host, he quipped fears of police attacks on black men in the US "reminded him of the old days" back home.
In his native South Africa, Noah is a star who has hosted television and radio shows and starred in a documentary about his life as a comic.
He got off to a rocky start with US audiences when shortly after being named to host the Daily Show, he was forced to make a public apology for jokes on social media about women and Jews. In the six-month lead up to his debut, he was noticeably absent from the US talk-show circuit.
In an interview with People magazine, he said the new Daily Show will be different than Stewart's program. But some things, he said, are eternal.
"I will not discount a good, silly joke. Donald Trump's hair is funny. It's always going to be funny, and that's just the human condition," he said.
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