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Trevor Noah Reflects on an Eventful Year for 'The Daily Show'

Comedy Central/Byron Keulemans
Trevor Noah, host of "The Daily Show."

A year ago, Trevor Noah did not have an easy job ahead of him.  The South African comedian was just starting work replacing a television icon as the host of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show.”  For many loyalists of the satirical news show, the Daily Show and its former host, Jon Stewart, were inextricably linked.  And the reviews have invariably made comparisons between the styles of the two men.

Noah has just started his second season in the host’s chair - and if it has been a somewhat unsteady year for the show, it has been an even more tumultuous year in the politics the show satirizes. Noah notes that this Presidential campaign  is like no other before, defying satire itself and challenging the make up of the show.

"The [candidate] is making the jokes themselves, the person is satirizing the system themselves, so what does that leave you?" asks Noah.

Despite the content the campaigns can lend to The Daily Show's own content every night, Noah sees Donald Trump's rhetoric as a "dangerous place to be in" that encourages mistrust. "That's a lot of the time what dictators do before they take over," he explains. "They try to discredit the police, they try and discredit the media...all of the institutions around them and then when they get into power they use that as a reason for shutting everything down."

In addition to the political climate, Noah is also concerned with race relations in the United States. As a host of a daily show who happens to be from South Africa, Noah himself has been the subject of hate mail and personal attacks online. But for Noah, it comes with the territory of being in the public light and in a world largely influenced by social media.

He compares Twitter to giving out your personal address for the public to access you. "They can send you that hate mail that they've always wanted to send. And I think also because it's effortless, it means that people are more likely to do it."

While social media can bring about hate speech, Noah also believes that various platforms can help facilitate constructive discussions about issues facing Americans today.

"A lot of people haven't acknowledged the system that was designed to oppress minorities, specifically black people in America," he says. "Without that acknowledgment it's very difficult for anyone to think that anything needs to change or any progress needs to be made."

Even with navigating modern day politics, issues and show content, Noah finds his work at the host's chair incredibly satisfying.

"It’s stressful, it’s time-consuming, it’s rewarding, it’s challenging – at times it feels like the hardest job in the world, or the hardest job I’ve ever done.  And then at times, I go, 'This is why I’m here,'" he says.

Trevor Noah started out as a stand up comedian and still manages to return to those roots. His stand up tour brings him to Milwaukee this evening for a show at the Riverside Theater. His stand up shows continue to evolve as Noah gains more experiences in and out of the host's chair, but one thing he will never leave behind is his stories about growing up in South Africa. "It's what formed me," he states, and these stories will soon be shared in a memoir coming out this fall called, Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood.

"The beauty of stand up comedy is that's my home, that's where I was forged, the stage is where I live and die," says Noah. "The audience, I speak to directly. We have a conversation every single night and there are no interruptions, there are no ads, there's no barrier, there's no screen, there's nothing that disrupts the connection that you have with your audience when you're a comedian.

"It's [like] an old, comfortable pair of pants, but a pair of pants that still looks stylish and you look good in them."

Audrey is a producer, host and reporter for Lake Effect. She is involved with every aspect of the show — from conducting interviews, editing audio, posting web stories and mixing the show together.