Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton want your vote and so too, in a way, does Trevor Noah.
As Republicans and Democrats prepare to nominate each of the aforementioned candidates for U.S. President, Noah and his “Daily Show” team will be on the ground over the next two weeks at both the Republican National Convention in Cleveland and the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in ways late-night rivals will find hard to match. As most late-night hosts weigh in on the action from afar, Noah and dozens of writers, correspondents and crew will do the show up close – and have a presence in digital venues like Snapchat and Amazon’s Alexa. What’s more, the program is expected to air live at 11 p.m. on both July 21 and July 28, after Trump and Clinton have made their acceptance speeches, before competitors take to the air. The first segment of each of those episodes will stream on Facebook Live.
Between 80 and 90 people associated with the show are expected to travel to both events and work 16-hour days, said Steve Bodow, executive producer of the Comedy Central program, in an interview “This is an all-hands-on-deck type of thing,” he added.
Under Jon Stewart, “The Daily Show” has had a regular presence at these political events, part of the program’s mission of covering the news with comedy and satire. This visit will mark Bodow’s fourth with the program. But it is the late-night show’s first time there with Noah at the desk, and producers and executives at the network are hoping the conventions turn into a showcase for his development at the helm of the series.
“He’s really getting on to another level of comfort and confidence with the show, and turning it into his own,” said Kent Alterman, Comedy Central’s president, in an interview. “There is a strong voice that is starting to come through.”
It’s no secret that “Daily Show” ratings have declined since Noah took the helm of the program – a testament to the difficulty of taking over for Stewart just as the younger viewers who tune in to the program find new ways to access video content that don’t get tabulated in Nielsen ratings. But Comedy Central says “Daily” viewership on digital media has increased during Noah’s tenure and notes the program captures more millennial viewers overall than any other late night program except NBC’s “Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.”
There is hope the “Daily” visit to the conventions can capture the interest of a broader crowd, even as Stephen Colbert, Seth Meyers and Bill Maher work to cover the proceedings for CBS, NBC and HBO. Noah gained attention earlier this month for his remarks on the recent police shootings of Alton Sterling and Philadno Castile. “Seeing is believing and yet, for some strange reason, when it comes to videos of police shootings, seeing isn’t believing,” he said in a seven-minute long bit that Comedy Central Alterman says has become the “most viral” piece of content featuring Noah during his tenure on the show. By the network’s estimates, the segment has reached more than 25 million digital viewers.
Convention coverage often spurs similar did-you-see-that moments. During the show’s visit to the 2012 Republican convention, Bodow had what he called “one of the greatest moments in my professional life.” Staffers felt like comedy material had fallen from heaven when Clint Eastwood gave a speech in which he proceeded to speak to an empty chair in which he pretended Obama was sitting. “We saw it unfold: A crazy old white guy was screaming incoherently at an empty chair and calling it Barack Obama,’ said Bodow. “The thing we realized, and we did our bit about this – it explained so much about the past four years. Now we see there is an invisible Barack Obama who only Republicans can see and they are very, very mad at him for doing all of the things the rest of us aren’t even aware of.”
Producers are betting that Noah’s background will help spur similar moments. The comedian hails from South African and his upbringing gives him a unique perspective on American habits, behaviors and institutions.” I think we often succeed when Trevor’s fresh perspective helps us catch something that we all have taken for granted,” said Bodow.
His view on things will be available in many forms. SiriusXM will begin a simulcast of “The Daily Show” via its Comedy Central network as the convention coverage gets underway. Producers are crafting a three-part special for Snapchat and fashioning a “flash briefing” that will be dispatched through Amazon’s Alexa. A free playground, of sorts, will be set up around the Republican convention, allowing fans of the program to play with election-themed fun-house mirrors and a replica of Noah’s “Daily Show” desk. And for people who still watch TV, there are two clip-based specials set to run that look defining moments for both Trump and Clinton.
“The biggest part of the currency of ‘The Daily Show’ is political,” said Alterman, the network’s chief. The show’s backers will know a lot faster than Clinton and Trump whether or not they’ve gotten viewers to buy some of it.