Usually when an entertainer leaves a live show for which he has been host, there are the usual thank you’s to staff and crew, a sprinkling of hosannas to special guests, and plenty of humor. Trevor Noah’s leave-taking of the Daily Show, his television home for the past seven years, was all of that, and more.
At the top of the finale, Noah opened with characteristic humor. “When I started the show, “I had three clear goals: ‘I’m going to make sure Hilary gets elected, I’m going to make sure I prevent a global pandemic from starting and I’m going to become best friends with Kanye West.’ I think it’s time to move on.”
In many ways you can look at Noah’s tenure as a love letter to America. Noah, after all, is from South Africa. He is biracial, son of a Xhosa mother and Swiss father. His memoir, Born a Crime, tells that story in ways that show from whence his comedy as well as his deep understanding of the human condition stems. In fact, it is the latter that gives such measure to the former.
In his final monologue from his desk, Noah said he learned three lessons doing the show. Lesson one, “issues are real, but politics are just an invented way to solve those issues … It’s not a binary. There are not just two ways to solve any problem.”
Noah opined that “politics is transformed into a giant game of football. And like football it turns everybody’s brains into mush.” Better, he advises to think of the issues facing individuals and the country through a human lens rather than a partisan lens.
Lesson two, “never forget how much context matters… We have a lot of information but we don’t have the context to process that information.”Noah noted that we respond to news we see through our own biases. The wider context of what we are seeing and hearing is lost.
People are “a lot friendlier than they would have you believe.” Social media may tempt us to think of the polarity between people. But for Noah, his travels throughout the country enabled him to see the better side of people, even those who may disagree with him politically.
Lesson three, said Noah, was that doing the show “taught me to be grateful foreverything that I have, that I don’t even realize I have… Grateful to the wonderful people who helped me make every single episode.”
One group who taught Noah received special mention. “I’ve often been credited with having these grand ideas. Who do you think teaches me, who do you think has shaped me, nourished me, informed me? From my mom, my gran, my aunts, all these black women in my life but then in America as well. I always tell people if you truly want to learn about America, talk to Black women. Because unlike everybody else Black women can’t afford to f—- around and find out. Black people understand how hard it is when things go bad.”
Context matters and so does heart. Trevor Noah is only 38 and he will be entertaining and yes educating us for decades more to come. His departure from the Daily Show was less a goodbye than a closing of one chapter and the opening of another. All done with style and grace.