How Trevor Noah Is Making The Daily Show His Own, Without Changing It Completely

Late night’s only millennial host opens up about his first month

On Sept. 28, the final piece of the recast late-night lineup clicked into place with the debut of The Daily Show With Trevor Noah. Replacing an icon like Jon Stewart after 16 years would be a daunting task for anybody, much less a relative unknown like the 31-year-old South African comedian. But Noah started strong ("Assured, handsome and with a crisp delivery, Mr. Noah was a smoother presenter than Mr. Stewart," proclaimed The New York Times), and he has improved markedly every night since.

When Stewart announced in February that he was stepping down as Daily Show host, Comedy Central offered the job to big names like Amy Schumer before settling on Noah, who started as a Daily Show contributor last December. The network is betting on Noah's long-term potential to reach millennial audiences (see "In Just Nine Months, Comedy Central Reshaped Late Night—and Kept Advertisers Happy"), and so far, so good. While ratings have dipped versus Stewart (which Comedy Central anticipated), more than half of the show's 18-34 audience is new to the show under Noah, according to the network. Meanwhile, advertisers have stayed loyal. According to SQAD NetCosts, The Daily Show with Trevor Noah boasts the second-highest 30-second ad rates in late night, behind only The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.

After wrapping his first few weeks in the chair, Noah sat with Adweek to talk about easing into his role, what he thinks about brand integrations, plus the crazy consumerism that has come to define the holidays in America and the world.

Adweek: Some worried that you would completely overhaul The Daily Show, but it was clear from your first night that this was the same program that audiences knew and loved. What was behind that choice?

Trevor Noah: I don't consider myself the smartest person in the world, but I know that I'm not an idiot. Throwing away one of the most amazing shows on television for the sake of throwing it away makes no sense to me. Rather, it's building on that and creating a newer version of the show. It's an evolution: the next model of a car, where you still see the lineage of the car before it, but it's a newer model. That's what we're working on.

You've talked about the importance of adding diversity to the staff. One of your new correspondents, Roy Wood Jr., already seems indispensable to the show.

Diversity brings flavor into conversations, and authenticity to an argument or to a presentation of a view that is sometimes lacking. That's why I wanted Roy on the show. And then, with [the other correspondents], there are conversations you can have where I don't have to go, "I wonder what [that person] thinks?" I can just ask directly. I'm really proud of that, but it's not the end. My goal is to get more of that going in the writing room and in the building itself, and I think you'll feel that richness in the show.

The Daily Show has been very active on Snapchat and Twitter.Photography: Andrew Eccles; Styling: Shannon Turgeon; Prop styling: Zechariah Vincent; Grooming: Jody Morlock

You joked in the premiere about bringing a "global perspective." What has been the best example of that so far?

We were really proud of our Trump Africa piece [which compared Donald Trump to several African leaders, including former Ugandan dictator Idi Amin]. I got to apply my mind and go, how do I see Trump as opposed to how is Trump perceived in the media? Everyone in the building would be furious: "Did you see what Trump said?" And I was like, "I don't think he's crazy; I just think he's a different type of personality, and he reminds me of home." A lot of the people are new to me, so it's great to come into a space with that fresh perspective.

You had a lot to worry about leading up to the premiere. What really kept you up at night?