An interesting cultural sidebar popped up this week when John Kasich was feeding a bunch of quick hits to the media. One of his subjects was Donald Trump’s recent abortion comments (and to be clear, most all of the session was Trump bashing) and he decided to toss in a bit of topical humor for the cool kids in the audience. What better way to show how in tune you are with the millennials than to include a Daily Show reference? (Politico, emphasis added)
“I mean, it’s like a panoply of mistakes and outrageous statements. You know what it is with Donald? It’s just a stream of consciousness,” he said on ABC, adding, “we’re dealing in such a serious time with the problem of global security, terrorism and here at home very poor economic growth, many feeling as though they’ve got no future. You can’t operate like this. You are going to be president of the United States. People around the world must be having a field day, and you know what Donald ought to be happy about is that Jon Stewart’s not running ‘The Daily Show.'”
That was just an unexpected shot out of left field at Trevor Noah, but it actually shows that Kasich is more in tune with the ebb and flow of pop culture than I probably would have given him credit for. It’s not that Donald Trump isn’t getting roasted on The Daily Show… he is. But there are two things different this year in that regard. First of all, the zingers aren’t really as zing worthy as they once were. And perhaps more to the point, they probably don’t hurt as much because there just aren’t that many people watching.
I remember when TDS clips were at least a fairly regular feature here at Hot Air. (Particularly when a Democrat did something so outrageous that even Stewart would turn his guns on them.) Such film segments were also regular fodder on Morning Joe and the rest of the cable news lineup. But under the new host they just don’t show up as often. And the reason, I’m rather sorry to say, is that the show just isn’t as good anymore.
I suppose this is the point where I’m obligated to say that, yes, I was on the Daily Show. In fact, I did it twice. Once when Stewart was in charge and once after Trevor took over. And that’s why it kind of pains me a bit to write this. (Well… that and the fact that this article likely signals the last time I’ll ever be invited.) But there’s no denying that the show has gone downhill.
I’m clearly not the only one feeling that way if you look at the size of the audience. The ratings haven’t just been bad… they’ve been awful.
Trevor Noah may have found some well-received moments on The Daily Show, but he is not out of the red yet. Ratings for the show may have leveled off in January, but they are still low. Worst of all, they are much lower than when John Stewart held the reins.
According to Showbuzz, Trevor Noah’s The Daily Show landed at No. 28 when it came to original cable television newscasts, as he attracted only 882,000 viewers and only 360,000 in the 18-49 age range on Monday night. Last Thursday, he attracted 768,000 viewers, with 310,000 in the 18-49 range.
Stewart regularly carried audiences of twice that size and for some of his bigger moments, would break three million. Of course, in the first weeks or even months, you could excuse some of that if you were only looking at the metrics on paper. Change is always difficult with an established brand and Noah would need time to build his own following and make the show his own. But things really haven’t improved.
I say all this knowing that the usual list of suspects will come out with accusations saying that any rejection of Trevor Noah must be racist. Please… go get a life. If there’s one field where you can be at the top of the game without consideration of race, it’s comedy. (Gender is another matter entirely.) Eddie Murphy is probably still one of the top comics alive today and Richard Pryor was very likely the funniest one of all time. This is something else and skin color isn’t a factor.
“Trevor Noah has been in the hosting chair for four months now, and his show has settled into a groove. If you tune into any episode, you will find something familiar enough, good for a chuckle but never a belly laugh,” stated Slate.
“Noah’s problem is not that he makes bad jokes, but that he doesn’t take more chances to make great ones. All bloodless finesse, he never goes for the jugular.”
That summary may have some validity, but all it really seems to be saying is that Trevor isn’t doing as well as Jon because he’s not enough like Jon. Whether you’re enjoying the show or not, that seems like rather unfair criticism. Of course, even if my own analysis is more “fair” in terms of brutal appraisals, it’s probably no more kind. Honestly, we stopped watching TDS at our house a couple of months ago because it’s not not as funny anymore. Too many of Noah’s jokes seem rather disconnected from the whole societal zeitgeist. This is difficult to describe, but it’s almost as if Trevor and his writing team know what bits out of the weekly political cornucopia are supposed to be funny, but he really doesn’t seem to get why they are funny, and it shows up in his presentation.
And while we’re on the topic, it’s his delivery that puts me off all too often as well. One of the cardinal rules of comedy is to never laugh at your own jokes. There are a few comics who can get away with it as part of their shtick, but Noah isn’t one of them and it doesn’t come across as shtick. It’s just annoying, particularly when you’re unavoidably comparing him to Stewart’s dry, deadpan readings. You eventually get tired of waiting around for him to finish laughing at his own joke so he can get on to the next one.
This is a sad thing to come to grips with… at least for me. I really liked The Daily Show and as much as he was a constant conduit for liberal claptrap and conservative bashing, I really miss Jon Stewart.