LONDON – They may have got it a day later than the US, but the reception was no less enthusiastic as South Africa tuned in to Trevor Noah’s debut performance hosting the Daily Show on Tuesday night.
National celebrities, government ministers and the Twitterati all clubbed together to give the Soweto-born comedian a hero’s audience as he took over from Jon Stewart – the much-loved anchor who’d been a fixture on the show since 1999.
“Needless to say, our homegrown guy received applause from local celebrities, all inspired by what Trevor has managed to achieve,” said Chanel 24 as TV presenters Basetsana Kumalo and Bonang Matheba and DJ Black Coffee hailed him a hero.
“Growing up in the dusty streets of South Africa I never dreamed that I’d have – well, two things really: an indoor toilet and a job as the host of The Daily Show… now I have both, and I’m quite comfortable with one of them,” said Noah in his opening gambit.
Noah’s humble beginnings became the inspiration for South Africans online as they united around the hashtag #Iftrevorcan. This was the moment for people to work hard at school, try harder at relationships and realise their dreams.
South Africa’s government is immensely proud of their entertainment export and the country’s foreign minister took time out of his United Nations general assembly to visit Noah on set in New York on Monday night.
Not only was the country behind him, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said, but the whole continent.
Monday’s #TrevorNoahDay spilled over to Tuesday and started trending in South Africa as it was screened on South African TV a day later.
Most said how proud they were of Noah; Twitter user known as Nchema asked why they hadn’t been granted a public holiday. Others shared a quote from his mum first aired in April: “Trevor has caused Africa’s drum to beat again, he has encouraged many to walk on the water and stand on the sea.”
Johannesburg-based comedian Daniel Friedman, known as Deep Fried Man, created an Eminem rap parody deferring to Noah’s greatness.
Noah was born to a Xhosa-speaking black mother and a white Swiss father when inter-racial relationships were still illegal and has been vocal about growing up in post-apartheid South Africa.
“Racial politics runs through his comedy like a stick of Blackpool rock” said the Guardian’s David Smith reviewing his final South African show before he headed for the US. This what makes him the perfect front man for an American prime time show, Smith added.
US reaction in contrast
Reaction from the US critics was more tempered. The Hollywood Reporter said it was still The Daily Show but his challenge in the next few months would be to make it the Daily Show with Trevor Noah.
The New York Times likened it to a new iPhone “sleeker, fresher and redesigned” but “essentially the same thing.” The Daily Beast said it was “crude and clumsy” and The Guardian described the performance as “groan-worthy” in parts but saved by “flashes of inspiration” – if only just. – Guardian