South African comic Trevor Noah filled the gigantic shoes of Jon Stewart as he took over as host of The Daily Show on Monday.
“This is surreal for me. I’m not gonna lie,” Noah said, launching into the show-opening monologue Monday night.
“Growing up in the dusty streets of South Africa, I never dreamed that I would one day have 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.”
Until being named to take over as the show’s host, the 31-year-old was not well known in the United States. He has done stand-up comedy around the world but on The Daily Show he appeared as a contributor just a few times.
Watch Trevor Noah’s monologue here
Some of Stewart’s people have remained on the set, providing a degree of continuity for the four-times-a-week show.
But the 52-year-old Stewart, who retired August 7 after a 16-year run on Comedy Central network, is a hard act to follow.
He turned the show into a unique cocktail of politics, journalism and entertainment that skewered politicians, the world in general and sensationalist cable news coverage in particular.
He was loved by liberals as a voice of reason and distrusted by conservatives for his left-of-center perspective.
He became such a towering figure in the competitive world of late-night American TV comics that he landed President Barack Obama as a guest no fewer than seven times. He won more than 20 Emmy awards.
“He was often our voice, our refuge. And in many ways our political dad,” said Noah, in one of his many praise-filled acknowledgements of his predecessor.
“And it’s weird, because dad has left. And now, it feels that the family has a new stepdad. And he’s black, which is not ideal.”
Throughout the show, Noah was as sharp and funny as Stewart, although he didn’t break much new ground. The studio audience seemed to love him.
“He’s more of a charmer,” said Andrew Wynner as he exited the show. “He has a lot of charisma.” But he added: “It was more a getting-to-know-you kind of show.”
“He’s the best I could have imagined to replace Jon Stewart,” said Sabrina Illiano, a Columbia University student in the audience.
Noah, born and raised in apartheid-era South Africa of a mixed-race marriage, says he will try to give The Daily Show his own unique flavour. Stewart told him to, he says.