How do you say goodbye to a late-night show redefined by your presence? Well, if you’re listening to the advice of Comedy Central executives, Paramount Global boardrooms, and the entire Daily Show staff— you don’t. But for Trevor Noah, who stepped behind the Daily Show desk for the last time as host on Thursday night, you say goodbye with a party — and a thank you.
“One last time,” Noah said, opening the show. “Let’s celebrate.”
Bid farewell by a full cast of correspondents and crew and semi-successfully serenaded with the Liverpool favorite “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” Noah spent his final show urging viewers to value human lives and context over the partisan divide — all while looking back at a show that changed forever under his leadership.
When Noah announced his departure from the show earlier this month, the bombshell reveal sent fans scurrying for reasons behind the sudden egress. Industry insiders said the announcement came as a shock not just to Paramount and Viacom executives, but to the show’s cast and crew, who heard the news live alongside the show’s studio audience. “Part of the reason I did it that way is because I didn’t want anybody to be the person who then tells somebody else, who then tells somebody else, who then tells somebody else,” Noah told The Hollywood Reporter. “And this is where we create the thing. [The show] is where we’re together, our space, and so for me, it felt like the most natural way to tell everybody at the same time.”
Starting in 2023, while The Daily Show is hosted by a rotating list of guests, Noah will embark on a 28-city North American stand-up tour. But according to Noah, there’s no fight or blowup or great big job opportunity that caused him to leave, nothing other than a desire to do something, anything, new. This lack of plans was enough for correspondents Michael Kosta, Desi Lydic, Dulce Sloan, Roy Wood Jr., and Jordan Klepper all poke gentle fun at during their turns in the spotlight.
“You’re leaving a job to do nothing?” Sloan remarked. “Wow, you really are half-white.”
While the big question on everyone’s mind is what Noah is doing next, the show took a surprising surface-level look back on Noah’s path from unknown newcomer to beloved (and somewhat divisive) public figure. Rather than feature some of the host’s most influential videos, there was a gentle mashup of his favorite tagline, “Get the fuck out of here, man.” It also included a cheeky celebrity sendoff from Oprah, Issa Rae, Tracee Ellis Ross, Nick Offerman, Bill Gates, and former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton—a veritable exercise in why we should teach famous people how to shoot horizontal iPhone videos. But Noah took the praise and the thanks with aplomb, continually redirecting the attention towards the audience and the executives in the audience who first chose him.
“Savor every moment,” he said in a reflective moment, advice he directed towards a younger version of himself. “There are moments in life that mean something. [But] it’s hard to appreciate in life how all of the growth comes from the shitty moments… And don’t invest in crypto.”
When Noah was tapped by execs and given the blessing of former host Jon Stewart in 2015, he was relatively unknown in the world of American stand-up comedy and had only been a Daily Show correspondent for three months before stepping in as host. But Noah’s inexperience with American politics, which many saw as a weakness, gave the former host a fresh take during the rise of candidate Donald Trump. While later years would see Noah criticized for his tendency to “just talk it out as humans” during some tense political situations, the Daily Show host charted the show from a global perspective, allowing Noah to imbue his comedy with an earnest intent to see the good in others. Since then, the South African comedian has increased the show’s online presence tenfold, and fought initial dips in ratings to become a staple of millennial primetime television.
Is Noah’s departure indicative of a major change in late-night television? It’s hard to say. In our current understanding of the format, hosts must be fresh enough to prevent the series from stagnating but established enough to draw and keep viewers watching. And for every success story like Fallon, Colbert, and Stewart, a class Noah now joins, the failures have the potential to push comedy’s progression back years. That wasn’t the case with Noah, as Thursday’s guest, comedian Neal Brennan noted. “[You] brought diversity to late night,” he said, presenting Noah with his *literal* flowers. “You turned The Daily Show into The Breakfast Club.”
It’s easy to imagine a final Daily Show with Noah that was much bigger than the one filmed Thursday. There were no major guests, no sweeping memorials, and a surprising lack of tears. But what was present at every break, every camera reset, every moment backstage as correspondents hugged and kissed and cooed over growing children, was celebration. There were more thank-you’s than punchlines, and even a moment where Noah pushed everything aside to thank Black women for their support and knowledge.
“Who do you think teaches me?” he said, mentioning his mother and grandmother. “Unlike everybody else, Black women can’t afford to fuck around and find out.”
Trevor Noah said goodbye to his show of seven years with the air of a man confident in his choice — and focused on creating a final bow that centered the friends and family that meant the most to him.
“It was the craziest journey that I didn’t predict and didn’t expect,” Noah said to a full audience. “It’s been an honor, thank you.”