As Jon Stewart signs off as host of Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" for the final time Thursday night, his replacement, South African comedian Trevor Noah, is preparing to take over the show Sept. 28. Noah, who has been touring the United States to drum up support for his comedy and build his brand, arrives to the job as a relative newcomer to American audiences and will be carefully scrutinized as he takes over what has become a cultural touchstone.
Stewart, who will leave "The Daily Show" after 16 years as host, took over from Craig Kilborn in 1999. During Stewart's reign, the show transformed from a little-watched talk show parody to a critically acclaimed and culturally relevant political satire generating an average of 2.5 million viewers a night.
Noah, whose mother is black and whose father is white, making their relationship illegal during South Africa's apartheid era, centers much of his comedy on observational humor, social etiquette and race. Noah became the first South African comedian to appear on "The Tonight Show" in January 2011 and "Late Show with David Letterman" in 2013, but came to widespread public attention in the United States only after being named as Stewart's replacement March 30. Shortly after the announcement, several jokes from his Twitter feed -- about overweight women and Jewish people -- quickly drew criticism.
"Oh yeah the weekend. People are gonna get drunk & think that I'm sexy!" - fat chicks everywhere.
— Trevor Noah (@Trevornoah) October 14, 2011
Almost bumped a Jewish kid crossing the road. He didn't look b4 crossing but I still would hav felt so bad in my german car!
— Trevor Noah (@Trevornoah) September 18, 2009
Noah released a statement in response to the public backlash, claiming that "to reduce my views to a handful of jokes that didn’t land is not a true reflection of my character, nor my evolution as a comedian."
Reactions to the comedian have been more supportive since he began touring, with many praising his adept stand-up abilities and sharp wit. Stewart has defended Noah by urging viewers to withhold judgment until after Noah begins hosting the show.
"Trevor Noah will earn your trust and respect -- or not -- just as I earned your trust and respect -- or did not," Stewart said recently on "The Daily Show," adding, "I do hope you give him an opportunity to earn that trust and respect because my experience with him is that he is an incredibly thoughtful and considerate and funny and smart individual, and man, I think, you give him that time, and it's going to be well worth it."