Comedy Central’s The Daily Show is now a gold standard for late night comedy. It originally aired in 1996 with host Greg Kilborn. However, it really found its stride when Jon Stewart took over hosting duties in 1999.
Stewart was known for his bold, politically brazen style, and he shocked fans and critics alike when he announced his departure from the show in 2015. At that point, hosting was handed over to newcomer Trevor Noah who has since become a comedy star in his own right.
The transition from a seasoned, well-loved American host to a South African, who most people had never heard of, was expected to be a tumultuous one. But, Noah handled it with grace and style. We now know that Stewart left him with some parting words of wisdom to help him along the way.
Jon Stewart warned Trevor Noah of following too closely in his footsteps
Trevor Noah was one of the people shocked to hear about Stewart’s departure. After all, The Daily Show was soaring in popularity and enjoying an average of 1.5 million viewers a night when the announcement was made.
Jon Stewart’s exit sparked a sharp drop in viewership. This left Noah with considerably fewer people tuning in to see him in his early role on the show.
Brian Stelter, a media correspondent for CNN insisted that people shouldn’t look too deeply into the drop. He noted that Stewart himself did not have such a great following when he started the show. “A replacement for a legend deserves years, not months, to settle in and make it his or her own show,” Stelter noted. “Broadly speaking, Trevor deserves the same thing Jon Stewart deserved: time.”
What Trevor Noah should do with that time was the question, and Stewart had an answer. Noah was working on the show when Stewart announced he was leaving. He went to Stewart to ask why he wanted to leave the show.
Stewart told him that he wasn’t having fun anymore, and he was angry all the time. He advised Noah to enjoy the comedy of it as long as he could: “relish the fact that you can make jokes about these things because there will come a day when you are too angry to laugh. But don’t rush to get there.”
Trevor Noah’s confidence was boosted by Jon Stewart’s kind words
While Jon Stewart may have felt burned out and ready for a change, he definitely wanted to pass the torch on with support and kindness in mind. Noah noted that in addition to warning him about burning out, Stewart also filled him with confidence. “First thing he told me was his shoes are smaller than mine, so I shouldn’t have trouble filling them,” Trevor Noah noted.
Perhaps it was that confidence from a seasoned host to a newbie that allowed Noah to persevere through the early ratings slump. In 2019, Trevor Noah’s The Daily Show saw historic growth and enjoyed raging success. This included 700 million first-quarter cross-platform views and the announcement of a comedy tour.
Jon Stewart continues to blaze a path
While Jon Stewart faded from the spotlight in many ways, he continues to blaze a path for Noah and other comedic newcomers who tackle politics and hard-hitting subjects. Today, he is known for his activism and advocacy work. He has also been working behind the camera but keeping his finger on the pulse of American politics. His work directing the political comedy film Irresistible is a way for him to keep a hand in his passion projects without the daily grind of being front and center on a heavily political show every night.
Clearly, his advice for Noah is paying off in a big way. His continued presence in the political areas that matter most to him show other celebrities how to back off without disappearing.