“I Don’t Have a Place Where I Belong, So I Belong Everywhere”: Trevor Noah on What to Expect From His ‘Daily Show’

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NEW YORK — At a press reception for The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, the new host and a group of Emmy Award-winning producers previewed the upcoming series, noting that it was simultaneously a new iteration of The Daily Show and also still very much The Daily Show that we’ve grown to love. Trevor Noah talked about how he would strike a balance between international and national coverage, the changes we should expect, and his “romance” with Rand Paul.

In terms of the show’s coverage, there has been speculation that it will go in a more international direction instead of just focusing mostly on American affairs. Noah’s comments supported that impression: “I, myself, obviously am born and raised in South Africa, but I’ve lived in many places around the world, so I’ve always seen myself as a citizen of the world,” he said. “So for the show, I think we’re going to mirror that.”

According to Noah, there is an interesting — and welcoming — new dynamic in The Daily Show‘s writers’ room: the writers and executive producers have a wealth of American knowledge and jokes, while Noah brings an outsider perspective to the series, looking at America and our politics through fresh eyes. For instance, he didn’t understand why schools’ summer breaks are so long in the United States, prompting everyone to realize that they also didn’t know — they had never thought to question it before — leading them to research the answer. “It’s about melding the two words,” Noah said, “But not going to a place where we say, ‘This is an international show.’ I think it is international by the fact that it is in the world.”

“I come in on a clean slate, I feel, with a lot of the politicians, a lot of the news media outlets — whatever it is. I have the opportunity to grow into it,” Noah later said, of his outsider perspective. One example? While watching the Republican debates with EP Steve Bodow, Noah was “complimenting every single thing Rand Paul was saying,” and Bodow replied, “Just you wait: He’s going to break your heart.” Later, Noah joked, “At this point, the romance is real and I will embrace it as such.”

On the obvious question of whether he is scared or feeling pressure leading up to the big premiere, Noah agreed that, “The pressure is amplified because of the legacy that The Daily Show has, because of what Jon has achieved, and the place that he holds in people’s hearts. I think if we didn’t have the pressure and if we weren’t afraid, then I would think there was something wrong with us. This is a giant undertaking.” He went on to praise the EPs working with him, indicating that they know what they’re doing — they have won Emmys, after all — and will help him along. “I’m the wild card,” Noah joked, “They’re the ones who should be afraid.”

The new set of The Daily Show with Trevor Noah

As for what else to expect from the new-but-old Daily Show, Noah informed us that it will be a “big difference in the style, as opposed to a changing up of the actual structure.” He likened the transition to moving into a house and tweaking it to fit him, rather than demolishing it and starting over. But he also talked about the increased emphasis on digital content — comedian and author Baratunde Thurston (the author of How To Be Black) was recently hired as a supervising producer to oversee digital expansion — and his decision to have more musical guests. “It’s something I enjoy,” Noah said. “It’s a great way to end the week. It’s one of the big differences, really.” Ryan Adams will be the series’ first musical guest, on Friday’s episode, a choice that Noah thinks is highly reflective of the show’s new direction, based on 1989: “He’s taken something that was loved by many, cherished by many, and he’s created a new version of it for himself and people have gone, ‘Wow. This is actually amazing. We can still like Taylor Swift but we can also like Ryan Adams’.”

One of the biggest takeaways was, again, how Noah’s unique perspective — as an outsider, as a South African, as a person of mixed race — was going to lend itself to The Daily Show format. “As an outsider myself my whole life, I was mixed with different groups. I grew up mixed. I grew up in mixed environments. I’ve never been afraid to go into a different space and relate to those different people because I don’t have a place where I belong, so that means I belong everywhere.”

The Daily Show with Trevor Noah premieres Monday, September 28 at 11 PM on Comedy Central.