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'The Daily Show with Trevor Noah' tries to makes us laugh on election night, fails

'The Daily Show with Trevor Noah' tries to makes us laugh on election night, fails
Trevor Noah in one of several moments that failed to land on his live election night special. (Getty Images for Comedy Central)

To be fair, Trevor Noah had his work cut out for him going into the live election night edition of “The Daily Show.” Even the far more experienced Stephen Colbert struggled to put on a show in the face of early results no one had predicted, which resulted in a victory for Donald Trump, one of the show’s longtime favorite targets.

But where Colbert looked to provide some big-picture comfort, "The Daily Show" seemed more deeply mired in shell-shocked despair. While a new election-themed subtitle that resembled something yelled before a car hurtles off a cliff — "NOOOOOO!"— was a nice touch, Noah seemed at a loss right from the top. "This is it," he said. "The end of the presidential race. And it feels like the end of the world." The silver lining grew more elusive from there.

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Noah's numb recitation of Trump's "so much winning" stump speech sound bite fared better as he tried to describe his feelings, but his admission that he was "very much afraid" offered little comfort, much less comedy.

Correspondent Roy Wood Jr. downed antacid while Noah toyed with a fake newsman hat in a few moments that also failed to land, and interviews with guests Keegan-Michael Key, Ana Marie Cox and presidential historian Douglas Brinkley never transcended the episode's funereal tone.

Noah's predecessor, Jon Stewart, veered close to despair during his live broadcast of the 2004 election results, but his show remained airtight, mining strong material from TV news network tics and the threat of a long recount. (Although looking at the murderer's row of correspondents — Colbert, Samantha Bee and Rob Corddry — in the below clips from that year on Comedy Central's website, how could it not?)

Noah's secret weapon throughout his rocky tenure at the wheel of "The Daily Show" has been his perspective as an outsider. Drawing on his experience as a South African — and an immigrant — in the face of such a political shift could have borne far more fruit than the numb shock found in the results.

The pre-taped segments were no better. Though Jordan Klepper offered a wry moment of encouragement to the left while reciting Trump slogans, a later piece examining the divisiveness at rallies for both campaigns only added a sense of disillusionment. Worse still was a piece from Desi Lydic on poll watching that for far too long gave a platform to a white supremacist leader, which is a bit that probably sounded better on paper as the kind of dodged-bullet mockery that could follow a lopsided Clinton win.

Fortunately for "The Daily Show," tonight brings another shot at finding its voice in this landscape. Noah's job was never easy as he took over for Jon Stewart. Now, knowing the show and its host peaked as a voice of opposition during the Bush years, the bar he must reach just grew that much higher.

Follow me over here @chrisbarton.

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