What The Daily Show With Trevor Noah Could Learn From SNL’s Weekend Update

It has been well over a month since Trevor Noah took over The Daily Show, and after a lot of initial fanfare and buzz, the storm as quieted significantly week after week. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find much activity or buzz online about Noah’s show right now (Outside of content paid for by the show, of course). I’ve been keeping up with Noah and The Daily Show team, and the show isn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination. The best way to describe it at the moment is forgettable, and for a show that was anything but under the care of Jon Stewart, being forgettable is a huge problem. Noah clearly still isn’t comfortable behind the desk, and the team of writers there are still figuring out how to write for him after years of working with Jon Stewart. All hope is not lost for Noah and the Best F*$king news team on TV though. To find an easy blueprint for success, all they have to do is look at Saturday Night Live and the 3 easy steps Weekend Update took to recover from the loss of Seth Meyers.

Riblet

LET THE CAST SHINE WHILE THE HOST ADJUSTS

For the record, this post will refer to the Michael Che-Colin Jost era of Weekend Update, if SNL wants to ignore the Cecily Strong time, I will too (It was a train-wreck for the most part anyway). Che and Jost took a while to settle into their positions. Both of them fumbled deliveries, looked uncomfortable at the desk, and had the smallest amount of chemistry two people paid to talk next to each other could have. Fortunately, Update weathered the storm by leaning on its correspondents and recurring players.

While Che and Jost found their footing, new and old characters like Riblet, Drunk Uncle, Jacob The Bar-Mitzvah Boy, Willy and more kept the segment funny and engaging. The part of the show that relied heavily on Jost and Che delivering jokes by themselves may not have lived up to the standard SNL fans were used to, but the rise of recurring players like Leslie Jones and Pete Davidson kept us from noticing just how rough the transition actually was.

The Daily Show can do the same thing by leaning on talented correspondents like Jessica Williams and Jordan Klepper for laughs while Noah continues to learn and adjust. Sure, every once in a while he will have to deliver a monologue, but taking some pressure off Noah and letting others share the comedic burden will help him adjust and be a better host in the long run. Will The Daily Show struggle while its lead voice shares the spotlight more often than commanding it, probably. But this will allow Noah to feel comfortable behind the desk, without being asked to carry the show just yet. It will also give time for The Daily Show team to adjust to Noah at the helm, which brings me to my next point.

DailyShow

WRITE FOR THE HOST’S PERSONALITY

After the immediate departure of Seth Meyers, Jost took the desk and was immediately dubbed a poor-man’s Meyers. Part of the problem was that Meyers had dominated Update for so long, trying to replicate his delivery, tone, and style was really the most logical move for Jost. Additionally, the Update writers made little-to-no effort at the beginning to write for Jost’s comedic tendencies, instead handing him the same punchline they would’ve before the change and hoping for the best.

Now in his third year at the desk, Jost has altered his style to tremendous effect. He’s moved away from being a Seth Meyers-esque straight man and leaned into more of a strange, off-color, out-of-touch white guy character. Though this wouldn’t work on its own, the persona is the perfect foil for Michael Che’s “Man, white people are dumb” comedic personality. The two are actually pretty similar comedians, which is why they struggled together last year, but the show has smartly leaned on their differences for comedy this season, and done so to great effect, as seen here.

Trevor Noah is having similar problems to Jost. Noah is a very different comedian than Jon Stewart. Stewart could deliver a punchline better than anyone, and was the king of quick joke-telling that got the point across as swiftly as possible. Noah, however, is more of a storyteller than a punchline machine. He’s at his best when he is leading the audience along at a calculated pace. To put it simply, Noah excels at the set-up, whereas Stewart was the master of the punchline. On a day-to-day basis, The Daily Show has struggled to adjust the show’s comedic style to match Noah’s, but there have been glimpses here and there that prove that there is plenty of potential there.
By far his best moment on the show, Noah’s monologue comparing Donald Trump to African leaders, showed that the comedic news program can adjust and thrive when Noah is in his comfort zone. The problem is that the show has insisted on taking him out of it way too often.

SEPARATE YOURSELF FROM THE PAST

The best thing one can say about the current evolution of weekend update, is that the “Colin Jost/Michael Che” iteration stands on its own.  Sure, the segment still has a while to go before it can even mentioned in the same breath as “Fallon/Fey” or “Meyers/Poehler,” but “Jost/Che” has successfully navigated itself out of the shadows of it’s predecessors. The hosts have unique styles and screen presences, and audiences know what to expect from the segment week in and week out. Weekend Update has come into its own this season, and has comedic confidence that hasn’t been seen in quite some time. If you want proof of the segment’s rejuvenation just look at last weeks Update, no show feeling insecure does a bit like the one featured here, let alone does it with such giddiness (The bit I’m referring to starts around 1:00).

The Daily Show With Trevor Noah isn’t there yet, but if the team there follows the blueprint set by Weekend Update, they too could be doing terrible Nazi puns and silly Thanksgiving bits with confidence and glee. There is a lot of talent at The Daily Show, talent that is capable of turning the current forgettable version of the show into something that can stand alongside the version that came before.


Season 41 of Saturday Night Live airs Saturdays at 11:30 on NBC

The Daily Show With Trevor Noah airs Monday-Thursday at 11:00 on Comedy Central

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