Colbert and Noah Settle Into Late Night Gigs

By Nicole Horton

South African comedian Trevor Noah took over for Jon Stewart on Sept. 28. EVAN AGOSTINI/AP

South African comedian Trevor Noah took over for Jon Stewart on Sept. 28. EVAN AGOSTINI/AP

The late night television shake-up led to the highly anticipated debuts of “Late Night with Stephen Colbert” and “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah,” taking over for David Letterman and Jon Stewart, respectively. As they have had the chance to settle into their roles, how do the two compare to their predecessors and late night show competition? First, it is important to take a look at the public’s reaction to their hiring.

For both CBS and fans, Colbert was the clear choice in terms of experience and popularity. Fans were advocating for a female host to take over for Stewart and join late night, like Chelsea Handler, Amy Schumer or Kristen Schaal. When it was announced that South African comedian Trevor Noah would be filling the role, people were both surprised and angry. First of all, they did not know who he was. Apparently, I was one of the few people who had checked out his Netflix special.
They then took to Twitter to criticize Noah for his tweets (that some called inappropriate jokes but others called sexist or bigoted) from a few years ago. Consequently, people were more excited to see Colbert take over for Letterman (who looked tired and bored of his guests for at least a few years) than to see Noah replace Stewart, whose departure came as a surprise to fans.

Both Noah and Colbert poked fun at themselves and their critics as they settled into their new gigs. Noah acknowledged that he was not a popular choice to replace Stewart and that he was not even the network’s top choice. He joked that the others who declined knew something he did not, and the job was being outsourced to an immigrant. Some people wondered who the “real” Colbert was since he spent nine years portraying a caricatured version of a political conservative, so Colbert decided to find out in the first installment of “Stephen Colbert’s Who Am Me?” That was, of course, after googling “Stephen Colbert Inner Self” failed. Spoiler alert: he is an INFP.

However, Fordham seniors did gain some insight into the “real Stephen Colbert” during “The Cardinal and Colbert” event in 2012. Colbert showed his sensitivity during an interview with Vice President (and rumored presidential candidate) Joe Biden. They had a very sincere, emotional conversation about the loss of Biden’s son, Beau, and discussed the role of religion when coping with loss. They discussed how Colbert lost his father at a young age, and his mother raised 11 children on her own. It definitely showed how Colbert was able to empathize with guests and allow them to feel comfortable enough to open up.

Noah’s first guest was comedian Kevin Hart, who shared that he was taking his comedy tour international. He presented Noah with a gift — a selection of ties. Hart said that he expected him to get more excited, which showed that Noah may have been anxious. However, Hart’s anecdotes took the pressure off of him and the interview ended up flowing well. Colbert’s first guest was George Clooney, who promoted a fake movie entitled Decision Strike to poke fun at celebrities who only go on late night shows to promote their latest projects. It was fun to see Clooney show more humor in a talk show appearance.

Colbert and Noah are using to their advantage the upcoming 2016 presidential election and the general controversy (or craziness) surrounding Donald Trump. Colbert had Trump as a guest, and started off the interview by saying, “I’ve said a few things over the years that perhaps in polite company are unforgivable.” Colbert may have played nice when Trump was there, listening to him talk about the wall between the United States and Mexico, but that did not mean he would be off-limits for future jokes. After all, there would be no fun in that since Trump jokes have become a late night staple.
Noah humorously compared Trump to African presidents in terms of attitude and policy, showing that Noah is looking to bring an international perspective to “The Daily Show” as he settles into life in New York City and tries to wrap his head around American politics. However, Noah showed that he lacked Colbert’s expertise in interviewing and talking politics during an interview with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who was a guest during his first week.

Both Colbert and Noah showed that they can bring their signature comedic styles to programs that have a reputation for a certain brand of comedy. Noah’s inexperience is evident, but he is bringing a different perspective and comedic edge to “The Daily Show.” Colbert will prove to be a must-watch as the presidential election approaches. It seems likely that Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel and Conan O’Brien will continue to be the more entertainment-focused late night entities that spawn more viral hits.


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