Trevor Noah and The Daily Show cast and crew were taking questions from an audience of reporters in front of their new set when one reporter broke the news to them that House Speaker John Boehner would step down to avoid a leadership challenge from the far-right.
“Well, I’m sad,” Noah said, responding to the morning’s big political news. “I liked him. He always cried.”
On Monday, Noah and Co. will relaunch Comedy Central’s hit satire/news program. Noah, a 31-year-old comedian from South Africa, is set to become only the third host in the show’s history, taking over (of course) for Jon Stewart (who took over for Craig Kilborn). Racial issues have figured into his comedy oeuvre quite heavily over the years.
“I was born a crime,” Noah (who was born to a black mother and a white Swiss father) told CNN in 2013, explaining how interracial marriage and interracial sex were illegal in apartheid South Africa. “My racial identity has been reclassified at least three times just in my lifetime, so it’s…very important to me,” he later added in an interview with Time Out London.
As for his politics, Noah at least attempts to be more opaque. During Friday’s press breakfast, he emphasized that he is “neither left nor right.” (His predecessor was always open about his liberalism, and used to identify as “more of a socialist.”)
Noah has, however, previously stated that one thing he and Stewart have in common is their progressive values. “We are both progressives,” he told the AP in March. “Traveling the world I’ve learned that progressives, regardless of their locations, think in a global space. And although I happen to be a guy who’s not from the same place that Jon’s from, I’ve lived in America for years before I went back out on the road, and I’ve learned to love the place.”
When The Daily Beast asked about his progressivism, he quickly clarified that he didn’t mean to say that he is “a political progressive—I consider myself a progressive person.”
The two often go hand-in-hand, and the answer sounded like a bit of a dodge. But Noah went on to elaborate on his personal—if not ideological—makeup.
“What makes me a progressive, in my opinion, is I try to improve myself and try to…improve the world that I’m in—in the smallest ways possible,” he continued. “I know I can’t change the entire world, but I’ve always believed that I can at least effect change in my world. So I try and do that, and progression in my opinion is often identifying your shortcomings, whether it be your views, whether it be just the things that you’re doing in your life, whether it be your relationships, both professional and private—and trying to find a place where you can improve on those…In my opinion, ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ instinctively should be a place where people are saying this is how we aim to progress, this is how we feel progression should be approached—as opposed to saying we do not want to progress or we want to progress.”
As for the politically progressive causes he can easily get behind, LGBT rights ranks highly.
“In terms of being a progressive, in an American context, let’s say, gay rights—equality of marriage. That’s a progressive thing for me…In an American context, they go, ‘Well, that skews liberal.’ Then I go, ‘Well, OK, that’s fine.’”
Funny enough, the American politician Noah is most enamored with at the moment is Republican senator and presidential contender Rand Paul.
“There are certain issues that I’ve seen, let’s say, from Rand Paul where I go, ‘Yeah, I like that,’ and I think that we can move forward in that regard. When it comes to Social Security reform, and looking at different ways to adjust benefits for people, there’s definitely a conversation to be had there. Now, I’m not an expert in it…But I believe progression can come from both sides.”
Despite Paul’s lackluster standing and poll numbers in the 2016 primary, Noah says it was the senator’s two debate performances thus far that impressed him so much. “He was saying things that were sane at the debates, he really was,” Noah said, referring, in part, to Paul’s less “knee-jerk,” neoconservative, invasion-happy approach to foreign policy. “He wasn’t gung-ho. He did seem thoughtful. And that is progression for me. And maybe that’s a tiny step in the right direction.”
(When asked about Noah’s comments, Paul spokesman Sergio Gor told The Daily Beast simply that Paul is “uniquely positioned to grow the GOP tent by attracting new voters and we welcome them all,” and that Paul would be open to appearing on the new latest incarnation of The Daily Show.)
Noah then likened watching Donald Trump, Carly Fiorina, and other Republican candidates to “walking through the streets of New York” and having crazy people scream at you.
A Daily Show colleague sitting near Noah at Friday’s event chuckled, and warned him that soon the day will come when Paul does something to “break your heart,” as all politicians are prone to do.
“I don’t know all of Rand Paul, and that’s what is gonna be fun,” Noah replied. “But at this point, the romance is real. And I will embrace it as such.”