Trevor Noah is nearing his last laugh on “The Daily Show.”
The comedian, who came out of near anonymity to take over the program from Jon Stewart in 2015, plans to exit the flagship Comedy Central series after a seven-year tenure that saw him transform it for a new generation of viewers who are more at home on social media than they are cable outlets and broadcast networks.
Noah revealed his plans to an audience at Thursday evening’s taping of the program in New York. according to two people familiar with the matter. It was not immediately clear when his actual exit would take place, or whether the Paramount Global cable network had begun to consider a successor. Jill Fritzo, a representative for Noah, could not be reached for immediate comment.
Noah’s plans to depart surface as TV’s late-night roster has begun to shrink. Yes, Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel still appear every weeknight around 11:30 p.m. to poke fun at daily headlines and do celebrity impressions and stunts, but they have fewer rivals. At Warner Bros. Discovery, executives have scuttled late-night shows led by both Samantha Bee and Conan O’Brien, and have made no efforts to replace either. Comedy Central once boasted three different programs, led by Stewart, Colbert and Chris Hardwick. Now the cable network is down to just one. Showtime’s “Desus & Mero” recently stopped production. James Corden has already indicated he plans to step down from CBS’ “The Late Late Show” next year, and NBC is no longer in the business of airing comedy programming at 1:30 a.m. after parting ways with Lilly Singh in 2021.
Comedy Central has several potential replacements for Noah on its roster. The host works with a large circle of faux “correspondents” that includes mainstays such as Desi Lydic, Roy Wood Jr., Ronny Chieng, Michael Costa and Dulcé Sloan. Jordan Klepper, who once hosted “The Opposition,” a show that followed “Daily,” is a regular contributor, and has gained traction online for segments in which he visits conservatives at rallies and asks them questions about the state of the nation. Comedy Central has also been working with Charlamagne Tha God on a weekly showcase that mixes comedy, commentary and news.
Noah has worked intensely to make the program his own, holding court with various media influencers after hours, and devising new “Daily” formats. His banter with the audience during commercial breaks became fodder for social-media clips. During the coronavirus pandemic, Noah hosted the show from his apartment, tilting toward more serious topics and interviews in the belief his audience — younger than those who watch his competitors on broadcast networks — were interested in more serious discussion. The show went on hiatus in the summer of 2021 in order to return to a more normal mode of production.
But the comedian took over the program under intense scrutiny. Stewart, who inherited “Daily Show” from Craig Kilborn in 1999, turned it into an institution with his probes of how the news media presented stories. When Noah took the seat, he faced a tough transition. “I will say the first two years were horrible — and it was horrible because I had taken over one of America’s most beloved institutions,” he told Variety in 2020. “And even though Jon Stewart had passed over the reins to me, it was essentially a year of people telling me I shouldn’t be doing the job and I was unworthy of being in that seat. And I continued to believe that. You step into this new role and you’re doing a new job and most of the first year was just trying to stay afloat, just trying not to get canceled and trying to find my footing. And the analogy I use is trying to learn how to fly a plane while the plane is flying. That’s what it felt like every single day.”
Noah’s exit means that late-night will be less diverse, particularly after the exits of Bee and Singh and the end of the “Desus & Mero” program on Showtime. That dynamic could play a role in how executives at Comedy Central choose to proceed.
More to come…