Trevor Noah says 2016 was so bad ‘that it just never ended’
Trevor Noah at the historic Beacon Theater in New York City.
Ask Trevor Noah and he’ll tell you: President Donald Trump has been a blessing for comedy. Noah’s brand of comedy in particular.
Trump’s election has been nothing but a momentum-changer for the comedian from South Africa, boosting The Daily Show’s ratings up 7% from this time last year, according to Nielsen, which says he ended January with 1.4 million total average nightly viewers.
But the heir to Jon Stewart’s nightly political sature has a lot else going on, too: His book Born a Crime launched in November, just after the election. And his first ever Netflix special — titled Trevor Noah: Afraid of the Dark — debuted Tuesday.
"It’s the Trump train," Noah said in a phone interview. "People look to shows where they can use comedy to I guess navigate what they see happening in the world. They want an honest interpretation of what’s happening."
Noah, who celebrated his birthday over the weekend, is modest about his surge in popularity.
He noted the comedy world is now "saturated like never before" with countless talented comedians.
"There was once a time where it was literally Jon Stewart doing one show," he said. "He was a pioneer. Everyone is trying to do a little piece of what he did. Now, there’s a litany of shows across the board. You have Sam Bee crushing it, John Oliver back again, Seth Meyers who turned his show to focus more on [politics]. One of the challenges is figuring out how to set yourself apart."
Comedy, however, has become an escape for many given the chaotic election.
"One thing I’ve learned about comedy is that there is space for everyone," Noah said.
Plus, "2016 was so shitty that it just never ended," Noah joked. "It’s the first year that just refused to stop. We’re calling it 2017 because we use calendars, but we’re still in the same year, let’s be honest."
For the most part, Noah has found his Daily Show groove by bringing his own take to the Trump administration. He has coupled that with sharp interviews, including one with conservative host Tomi Lahren. The first thing he asked her: “Why are you so angry?”
The fiery interview touched on everything from Black Lives Matter to the Affordable Care Act. And it immediately made the kind of headlines that The Daily Show needed.
Noah says he’s "gotten more comfortable being [myself]" and is these days tackling interviews knowing he doesn’t want to have conversations that "dance around every issue."
His dream guest? Trump himself.
Noah said the struggle with the Comedy Central show is staying current, given the pace at which news is made these days. The show is produced during the day for a 6 p.m. ET shoot, but by 3 p.m., the news has usually completely changed.
"Do you scrap everything you planned or do you go with a show that may seem a bit old?" he said. "The upside is you can’t deny there’s a lot of comedy. It’s an under-qualified, unfocused administration. They don’t seem to know what they are doing."
With the Netflix special, Noah was able to be less focused on the grind of daily news, taking on a broader, more global view. But then, to be fair, he kind of had to: The 77-minute comedy set was filmed at the Beacon Theater during the New York Comedy Festival — the weekend before the 2016 elections.
Still, the special — like the Daily Show — features Noah doing what he does best: Poking fun at the U.S. from a foreigner’s perspective.
Afraid of the Dark is now streaming on Netflix.