Most of Noah’s farewell adopted the same tone — nostalgic, but cheeky. Aside from a brief interview with comedian Neal Brennan, the episode was entirely devoted to looking back on Noah’s seven years at the helm and poking fun at his vague plans for the future. At one point, Noah, who often references his South African upbringing, joked that there were “just a few hours before I fly back to Africa.”
“Rafiki’s holding up the new kid,” he continued. “We’ve all gotta be there. It’s a whole thing.”
Noah first announced his imminent departure from “The Daily Show” in September, explaining on air that he wished to spend more time on other aspects of life, whether family and friends or live comedy shows and touring. After seven years, he said, “my time is up. But in the most beautiful way.” (Until the next permanent host is announced, the show will be led by a series of guests including Al Franken, Chelsea Handler, D.L. Hughley, Leslie Jones, John Leguizamo, Hasan Minhaj, Kal Penn, Sarah Silverman, Wanda Sykes and Marlon Wayans.)
“The Daily Show” transformed into a cultural institution under Jon Stewart, the late-night program’s second host, who worked the gig for 16 years. Noah, a South African comedian for the most part unknown to American audiences back in 2015, was an unlikely successor to Stewart, but one chosen by Comedy Central executives in an attempt to attract millennial viewers to the network.
In the end, Noah, now 38, was able to do more than speak authentically to a younger demographic. As The Washington Post’s Elahe Izadi observed this week in a retrospective on his several years as host, “Noah could bring something Stewart and his once-rumored possible replacements couldn’t: a comedic view that could be given only by an outsider, who offered it while a part of the inside.”
On Thursday, the “Daily Show” correspondents dedicated their segments to bidding Noah farewell.
Stock reporter Michael Kosta noted, “As much as I love numbers, there’s a different n-word I love even more: Nostalgia.” Weatherperson Desi Lydic ran a rather self-centered exit interview with Noah: “What will you miss most about me?” she asked. Internet trends expert Ronnie Chieng joked that he didn’t need Noah anymore — “I’m in multiple tentpole franchises thanks to this show,” he boasted — while traffic reporter Roy Wood Jr. begged Noah to give the shtick up: “Just admit it. You ain’t African.”
Lottery announcer Dulcé Sloan went directly for the question on everyone’s mind: What’s next for Noah? She struggled to grasp that, according to the host, he doesn’t really have anything specific planned. “So you’re just leaving a job to do nothing? Wow, you really are half White,” Sloan remarked.
Surprise guest Jordan Klepper, a former correspondent who has intermittently returned to the show, had his own theory: Perhaps Noah would run a candy store. Klepper introduced this idea during a video segment in which he interviewed New Yorkers about how Noah’s departure made them feel. A few were passionate in their thoughts. One man believed Jimmy Fallon to be a “Daily Show” correspondent.
The New Yorkers could be seen as a fitting sample of the American population, varied in opinions and perspectives. Noah confessed toward the end of the episode that he still doesn’t much understand this country, and becomes increasingly aware of the fact “the more I learn, funnily enough.”
So maybe Noah didn’t swoop in and fix America, after all. But he did manage to relay a few valuable lessons that he learned over the years and attempted to infuse into his approach to the show.
The first lesson, he said, was that “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.”
The second was to “never forget how much context matters.” When Noah first started hosting, he said, people hated him for superficial reasons such as his hair and accent. Seven years later, “these people still hate me — but for the right reasons now. Because they know me. They understand me.”
Noah’s haters received multiple mentions throughout the night — to “the people who hate-watched, we still got the ratings,” he quipped — but positivity reigned supreme. He thanked the audience numerous times, and specifically shouted-out Black women for shaping how he came to view the world.
That shout-out fell in line with Noah’s final lesson from hosting the show: Gratitude.
“It’s taught me to be grateful for everything that I have, that I don’t even realize I have,” he said. “Grateful to the wonderful people who helped me make every single episode.”