How do you Saying goodbye to a late-night show redefined by your presence? Well, if you listen to the advice of Comedy Central executives, Paramount Global boardrooms, and the whole Daily Show staff – you don’t. But for Trevor Noah, who stepped behind the Daily Show desk for the last time as a host on Thursday night, you say goodbye with a party – and a thank you.
“One last time,” Noah said, opening the show. “Let’s celebrate.”
Farewelled by a full cast of correspondents and crew and semi-successfully serenaded with Liverpool favorite “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, Noah spent his final show urging viewers to value human lives and context over the partisan divorce — all while looking back at a show that changed forever under his leadership.
When Noah announced his departure from the series earlier this month, the bombshell revelation sent fans wondering about reasons behind the sudden exit. Industry insiders said the announcement came as a shock not only to Paramount and Viacom executives, but to the show’s cast and crew, who heard the news live alongside the show’s studio audience. “Part of the reason I did it that way is because I didn’t want someone to be the person who then tells someone else, who then tells someone else, who then tells someone else,” Noah told The Hollywood Reporter. “And this is where we make the thing. [The show] is where we are together, our space, and so for me it felt like the most natural way to tell everyone at the same time.
Beginning in 2023, while The Daily Show will be hosted by a rotating list of guests, Noah will embark on a 28-city North American stand-up tour. But according to Noah, there is no fight or blow-up or amazing big job that caused him to leave, nothing but a desire to do something, anything, new. This lack of planning was enough for correspondents Michael Kosta, Desi Lydic, Dulce Sloan, Roy Wood Jr., and Jordan Klepper all to create gentle fun during their turns in the spotlight.
“You leave a job to do nothing?” Sloan noted. “Wow, you really are half-white.”
While the big question on everyone’s mind is what Noah does next, the show took a surprising look at the surface of Noah’s path from unknown newcomer to beloved (and somewhat divisive) public figure. Instead of featuring some of the host’s most influential videos, there was a gentle mashup of his favorite tagline, “Get out of here, man.” It also included brutal celebrity deaths from Oprah, Issa Rae, Tracee Ellis Ross, Nick Offerman, Bill Gates, and former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton — a veritable exercise in why we need to teach famous people how to make horizontal iPhone videos can shoot But Noah took the praise and thanks with aplomb, continually directing attention to the audience and the executives in the audience who chose him first.
“Savor every moment,” he said in a reflective moment, advice he directed at a younger version of himself. “There are moments in life that mean something. [But] it’s hard to appreciate in life how all the growth comes from the shitty moments… And don’t invest in crypto.
When Noah was tapped by executives in 2015 and got the blessing of former host Jon Stewart, he was a relative unknown in the world of American stand-up comedy and had only been a Daily Show correspondent for three months before stepped in as host. But Noah’s inexperience with American politics, which many saw as a weakness, gave the former host a new take during the rise of candidate Donald Trump. While in later years Noah would be criticized for his tendency to “just talk it out like people” in some tense political situations, the Daily Show host has charted the show from a global perspective, making Noah’s comedy with an earnest intention to see the good in others. Since then, the South African comedian has increased the series’ online presence tenfold, fighting the initial dips in ratings to become a staple of millennial primetime television.
Is Noah’s departure indicative of a big change in late-night television? It’s hard to say. In our current understanding of the format, hosts must be fresh enough to keep the series from stagnating, but established enough to draw viewers in and watch. And for every success story like Fallon, Colbert and Stewart, a class that Noah now joins, the failures have the potential to push comedy’s progress back years. That wasn’t the case with Noah, as Thursday’s guest, comedian Neal Brennan noted. “[You] brought variety to the late night, “he said, and presented Noah with his * literal * flowers. “You turned The Daily Show in The Breakfast Club.”
It is easy to imagine a finale Daily Show with Noah that was much bigger than the Thursday filmed. There were no big guests, no sweeping memories, and a surprising lack of tears. But what was present at every break, every camera reset, every moment backstage when correspondents hugged and kissed and cooed over growing children, was celebration. There were more thanks than punchlines, and even a moment where Noah pushed everything aside to thank Black women for their support and knowledge.
“Who do you think is teaching me?” he said and called his mother and grandmother. “Unlike everyone else, black women can’t afford to fuck and find out.”
Trevor Noah said goodbye to his show of seven years with the air of a man who is confident in his choice – and focused on making a final bow that was in the middle of the friends and family that meant the most to him.
“It’s been the craziest journey that I didn’t predict and didn’t expect,” Noah told a packed audience. “It was an honor, thank you.”