Tag Archives: trevor noah

The Daily Medicine Show

 

A grandfather I never met lost his tiny Georgia grocery story (in which dad was born) during the Great Depression. He couldn’t bear asking customers, all neighbors and friends, for money they did not have and would not see again. Eventually, he gave away so much that he had to shutter the business.

So he started a medicine show, a common sight of the era.  By horse and cart, medicine shows traveled from town to town to sing, dance, tell jokes and, hopefully, sell ‘remedies’ and trinkets to monied spectators. A traveling Tonight Show and souvenir shop.

Dad was too young to hit the road, so his eight brothers and sisters handled the entertainment. But my uncle Fonnie laughed so much at his own jokes that grampa had to cut him from the non-star roster.

I wonder what gramps would have thought of The Daily Show with Trevor Noahnoah

Noah is the high-profile replacement to Jon Stewart. The South African-born standup comedian is clever, young and leading-man handsome — a trifecta in the cable TV derby. But something is missing in the retooled show.

The writers are the same. So is the left-leaning humor. But the bite lacks.

Perhaps it’s a matter of age. Political humor requires a certain world weariness. Stewart, 52,  had it in spades. stewartSo does Larry Wilmore, 53, whose Nightly Show follows The Daily Show and who would have seemed a natural replacement to Stewart. Like Stewart, Wilmore is terrific at exasperation. wilmore

Noah, on the other hand, is terrific at tourist-like bewilderment. The 31-year-old often wonders aloud about an American political system that has become as cartoonish as Daffy Duck. His observations are on the money, and should be fodder for eternal material.

But politics in the U.S. is humor we know all too well, and the jokes feel somehow dated and retold. Just substitute Marco Rubio for Boss Tweed. rubiotweed

And then there’s the Fonnie Syndrome. Noah has a megawatt smile, and his laughter at punchlines feels genuine. Certainly, Stewart chuckled all the time at a good zinger. But Stewart laughed at the absurdity of a broken system, not the humor of his joke. There’s a razor-wire difference, and perhaps it comes from a half century of experience with red tape buffoonery.

It’s unfair to judge this early, and Noah may soon find his wheelhouse. It took Stewart the first six months of his 16-year stint to become a canny political satirist. And Comedy Central will not give a rat’s ass about wit if the millennials keep the Nielsen numbers high.

But The Daily Show had such a dry and knowing sense of humor it bordered on informational. Stewart eventually became a Post-It note reminder of the forgotten, the hair-pulling pundit for those who had to close their stores, join medicine shows and tap dance to the Muzak of The Department of Bureaus.

To lose that would be no laughing matter.

 

 

 

 

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One Comedian, to Rule Them All

 

Jon Stewart exits The Daily Show tonight aloft so many laurels you’d think he was being escorted to the farewell ship of The Lord of the Rings.

But there are three groups whose reaction I await as much as I dread Stewart’s departure.

* The first is Comedy Central. How do you replace a show that was nothing less than a game-changer? Stewart’s 16-year span will be viewed as the 70’s salad days of Saturday Night Live were for scores of ascending stars, including Blues Brothers John Belushi and Dan Akroyd. The Daily Show had something akin in the news brothers, Steve Carrell and Stephen Colbert, who have similarly entered new celebrity orbits. Even the show’s B-list reporters, which included Ed Helms, John Oliver and Rob Corddry, made most primetime network comedies look like funeral wakes.

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* What about the Democratic National Committee? Stewart was the party’s most recognizable (and influential) advocate outside of Barack Obama. A CBS poll found that 21% of Americans aged 21-29 — the new Democratic Party lifeblood — got the bulk of its news from The Daily Show. Producers may have found a young, hip, millennial-friendly replacement in Trevor Noah. But the  show — at least as it skews now, which is D.C.-centric — thrived on a veteran jokester with real political acumen (and razor wire imitation skills).

Who will become the Left’s new beacon? Bill Maher’s ego makes even Progressives wince. Colbert will likely take a more centric tone as he replaces David Letterman on the national late-night front. The Democrats have always benefitted from having a sense of humor (why are the Right’s media spokesdouches — O’Reilly, Limbaugh, Hannity, etc. — such angry, pasty blubberers?) Hillary’s presidency is a lock, but DNC Chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz would be wise to either champion a new megaphone for younger voters, or convince Stewart to take a more open, direct role with the party.

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* Finally, I wonder about Arby’s. Stewart has always had a special spot in his heart for skewering the alleged meat vendor.

No one really knows why. Even Stwewart isn’t sure, confessing  that the restaurant chain has always taken its ribbing in good humor. “And they really are wonderful folks,” the comedian once said on air.

Perhaps it’s the name. It sounds like a cartoon sound effect. Maybe it’s  a lot easier name to lampoon than Burger King or McDonald’s. The all-time champ, though, is a 24-hour convenience store chain I discovered in Arkansas called Kum & Go. I swear.

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Personally, I think Stewart got the idea from The Simpsons (he admits he’s a fan of the funniest sitcom of all-time). He has quoted Homer, welcomed Simpsons guests aplenty, even dropped the occasional ‘D’oh!’

I think he was inspired by a specific episode years ago, where Marge explains why you can’t trust commercials: “Homer, people do all kinds of crazy things in commercials. Like eat at Arby’s.”

Admittedly, I love the near roast beef and cheddar, which likely contains neither. Regardless, they won my heart with August’s official’s HB Commercial of the Month, on self-deprecation alone.

Fare thee well, Jon. Good luck in The Shire.

 

 

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