The Daily Show with Jon Stewart left a major impact on me. Along with The Colbert Report, it replaced my apathy regarding politics with an active interest. Initially, I made efforts to learn more about what they were talking about just so I could better understand their jokes. As it turned out, some the things they were talking about are actually really important! I also developed higher standards for what a "good" politician or journalist should be after seeing countless examples of Stewart catching them in self-contradictions or outright lies.
Trevor Noah is likely feeling the pressure of the sky-high expectations surrounding The Daily Show as he prepares to take it over. Despite having a lengthy career as a television host, radio personality and comedian in South Africa, Noah was a relatively obscure figure in the United States before he was selected to be Stewart's successor. I've enjoyed some of his appearances on The Daily Show as a correspondent, but I'm still largely unfamiliar with his body of work. When I realized that he had a full stand-up special on Netflix ("African American"), I decided to give it a shot.
Noah's international perspective is strongly conveyed here. In addition to his upbringing in South Africa and the recent time that he has spent in the United States, Noah is also capable of speaking several different languages, and he accurately adopts a variety of accents as part of his routine. A lot of his material centers around poking and prodding at peculiar cultural norms in the United States that we take as a given.
In this special's weaker moments, this leads to a series of droll observations along the lines of "the imperial measurement system sure is weird" and "southern accents are funny." In its stronger moments, Noah explores his own mix-raced identity and how out of place it can make him feel in the United States. While growing up under South Africa's system of apartheid, he was never allowed to forget that he was half white and half black. In the United States, however, things can get more confusing. Some people assume that he's Puerto Rican, black people seem incredulous to learn that he's from Africa (due to his relatively lighter skin tone), and in the highlight of this special, an assistant at a bank has a miniature meltdown when he lists himself as being "white" on an application for an account.
The Daily Show, of course, is more than the input of any individual. Noah, like Stewart, will be supported by several correspondents and a bevy of talented writers, producers, and more. The rebooted show may take some time to find a comfortable rhythm, but I'm definitely interested to see what direction Noah will push it in. This special makes it clear that he will be able to approach international affairs and issues regarding racial identity in a fresh way.