Those grieving the departure of Jon Stewart got their first look at “The Daily Show With Trevor Noah” Monday night, and the 31-year-old South African comic did not fumble the handoff.
Noah, a former “Daily Show” correspondent, confidently checked all boxes required of the new guy taking over a beloved institution.
In his opening remarks, he thanked Stewart for believing in him, and said he would work hard to ensure that his former boss would not end up looking “like the crazy old dude who left his inheritance to some random kid from Africa.” (This also subtly underscored the notion that Stewart is #TeamTrevor.)
Throughout the show, Noah poked fun at some of the chatter surrounding his ascendancy to the anchor desk as both a person of color and a foreigner. He acknowledged that Stewart was like a “political dad” to many viewers. “And it’s weird because dad has left. And now it feels like the family has a new stepdad, and he’s black.” He offered a sliver of his own background leavened with self-deprecating humor, noting the surreality of the moment. “Growing up in the dusty streets of South Africa, I never dreamed that I’d one day have two things really: an indoor toilet and a job as host of ‘The Daily Show.’ And now I have both and I’m quite comfortable with one of them.”
His first big laugh came when he stated that all of the female and/or American candidates that Comedy Central approached to host turned them down: “So once more, a job Americans rejected is now being done by an immigrant.”
And, finally, Noah wisely picked up the thread of Stewart’s remarks during his final show Aug. 6, reassuring viewers that he would “continue the war on [expletive].”
The show’s news segments — the papal visit, the discovery of water on Mars, the resignation of House Speaker John Boehner — all worked to varying degrees, and Noah appeared very comfortable in both his body language and crisp delivery.
The Boehner bit, with “senior congressional correspondent” Jordan Klepper, took an amusing, meta twist as Noah told jokes about the scrutiny and criticism that Boehner’s successor would undoubtedly face: “Wow, those are big shoes to fill. . . . Whoever takes that job will probably fall flat on their face in front of the entire nation.”
A softball chat with comic-actor Kevin Hart — who gifted the new host with some ties — was nothing special but an easy entrée for Noah on the interviewing side of the desk.
Noah made it through the half-hour with no stumbles and a sense of easy charm.
Despite a new host and a new set, it’s worth reiterating that Noah retains all of Stewart’s senior writers and correspondents. The launch felt like a purposeful, and successful, reassurance to longtime fans that no one is interested in messing with a successful formula.
Sarah Rodman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @GlobeRodman.