I remember old people and the way they talked about Johnny Carson. He was special to them in a way he was not to me. I still really liked him. I especially remember a joke he told in 1976. (That’s right: at 12 years old, my parents let me stay up that late. Is there any wonder I turned out like this?) Jerry Brown was running for president. Carson told a joke that I will paraphrase, “Reporters asked Jerry Brown if he had a response to those who said he was just a hippy with his head in the clouds. Brown responded, ‘You give good karma out; you get good karma back in.'” That’s a solid joke. But it died. So Carson ad libbed, “How about: he said it while meditating on ten pounds of raw liver?” I died. Brilliant joke. So I liked Carson, but he was never for me what he was for people 30 years older.
But I understand now. With Jon Stewart leaving The Daily Show, I feel a profound sense of lose. At the end, I thought The Colbert Report was better. But it is Stewart that I miss — and not because Colbert has The Late Show. It’s good, and I watch it now and then, but it is nothing special. It’s weird, but we humans really do develop relationships with people we don’t know. But I’m kind of glad Stewart left, because I like the feeling. It’s great that he left at (or near to) his peak.
So how am I dealing with The Daily Show with Trevor Noah? Well, it’s great. It isn’t the same. It doesn’t feel like my show. But it has been great from the first episode. It has a great advantage over Larry Wilmore and The Nightly Show, in that it has an established format. But let’s face it: it also has better writers. I’m not sure about the future of The Nightly Show, because it still struggles. But The Daily Show should live on.
That was especially true last Thursday. As you have probably heard, Ben Carson made a comment about how all those people murdered recently in Oregon should have rushed the gunman. It’s a typical kind of libertarian purely theoretical argument. Yes: if all of them rushed the gunman, then only some of them would have died. It has all the real world usefulness of a Dungeon and Dragons scenario.
But then it turned out that Carson had previously admitted to being at a Popeyes fried chicken place when a gunman came in and pointed a gun at him. Carson — rather different from his tough guy stance today — just calmly told the gunman, “I believe that you want the guy behind the counter.” But Noah didn’t take the routine in the obvious direction — at least right away. It’s clear enough what a total jerk and hypocrite Ben Carson is.
Carson said something else that was odd. I’m sure it stuck out to everyone who heard it — it certainly did me. But only the gifted could turn that into comedic gold. Carson referred to the restaurant as, “Popeyes organization.” So Noah just ran with it, “Popeyes is a little known charity that gives out fried chicken in exchange for money. Learn how you can help at PopeyesGivesBack.org.”
Well, I did what I always do: I went to the website. And sure enough, it exists. I looked it up and they bought it at 2:00 local time that day. There’s not much there, but it is well done — especially when you consider they only had a couple of hours to put it together. The high point is a quote from Ben Carson, MD, “This chicken is to die for! Not for me, certainly, but for someone else. I’d suggest the guy behind the counter.”
I think I’m too old to ever have quite the connection to Trevor Noah that I have to Jon Stewart. But the show is certainly in capable hands. And at this point, I am as committed to watching it every morning as I ever have been.