March 10, 2019

The host of “The Daily Show” promised to double down on informing his audience, many of whom he acknowledged use the Comedy Central series as a primary news source.

Trevor Noah, speaking at one of the most popular sessions so far at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, joined six of the show’s correspondents and CNN anchor Jake Tapper, who moderated the panel.

The panelists spoke about the challenges of putting together a funny show that can be upended just before airtime by the jarring shifts in the news cycle since Donald Trump became president.

Noah said, “We’ve had to learn to just embrace that instead of running from it. We know full well at 5 p.m. we’ll have to throw away half the show. We’ve gotten good at it. We embrace the chaos.”

Trump has been the catalyst for other changes to “The Daily Show” since Jon Stewart left it in 2017. It has given Noah and his crew even more incentive to produce non-Trump-related field segments that aren’t dictated by breaking news on topics such as violence in Chicago and gun control.

But Trump has also inspired ideas such as the Donald J. Trump Presidential Twitter Library, which “The Daily Show” published as a book and has on display as an exhibit at SXSW.

Another way “The Daily Show” evolves, Noah said, is through more online content, podcasts and a “Between the Scenes” show that keeps cameras rolling before and after “The Daily Show” is taped. Noah said that this in particular has allowed him to become more unfiltered and to think through his own ideas in front of an audience in a less polished way.

Unsurprisingly, correspondents/cast members Ronny Chieng, Michael Kosta, Desi Lydic, Dulcé Sloan, Roy Wood Jr. and Jaboukie Young-White were all funny, detailing some of their experiences in the field and chiding each other in front of a game Tapper.

The best news for news advocates may be that Noah takes his mission very seriously beyond getting laughs. As a native of South Africa, he said he’d like Americans to be as engaged and as informed as he was growing up.

“In South Africa, we know what was happening in the world,” he said. “I would like to create a show and I strive to create a show that informs you about what’s happening in your world.”

To that end, Noah wants more international news on the show and to detail what’s happening with the Democratic Party going into the 2020 presidential election.

“I want to know what the candidates’ plans are. We’d like to be giving you an accurate representation of what’s happening in the race and what the candidates are doing and how it’ll affect your life.”

He promised to go beyond mining comedy out of candidates eating corn dogs at state fairs. But that doesn’t mean the ultimate goal isn’t to entertain viewers, particularly in a time when news and parodies of news seem to be blending together.

“I’m not trying to create a straight-up news show,” he said. “If you can’t laugh at what’s going on, you’ll go crazy; you’ll be crying all the time.”

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Omar L. Gallaga is an adviser and trainer for The Poynter Institute as well as a technology and culture reporter who covered the rise of…
Omar Gallaga

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