NEW YORK - South African comedian Trevor Noah is the latest (and last, for a while) new player in TV's game of late-night musical chairs. At 31, he's also youngest, and promises to adapt Comedy Central's The Daily Show for a new generation while trying to preserve its outsize cultural relevance.
Noah becomes the show's third host Monday (11 p.m. ET/PT), seven weeks after Jon Stewart packed it up after a 16-year run. Kevin Hart is his first guest, followed later in the week by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and singer Ryan Adams, a sign of the show's continued interest in a blend of politics and entertainment.
Longtime fans needn't fret, Noah says in an interview. While he plans some format tweaks, the biggest change will come in "the way we look at stories, or even how I present the stories to the audience."
That prism will reflect the hosts' vastly different backgrounds: Noah grew up as a poor, mixed-race kid during apartheid, when his parents' marriage was illegal, and he had no real connection to American politics. Stewart, 52, was raised Jewish in an upper-middle-class New Jersey suburb.
And while Stewart was vocal about subjects including the Middle East ("Mess O'Potamia," as he called it), "I will have to find my running passion: What becomes the thing that really connects with me on the show," Noah says.
Unlike Stewart, who was easily riled up by hyperactive cable-news outlets, Noah will start out focusing more on people making news than those delivering it. "I'm less likely to skewer CNN or Fox and more to skewer (Kentucky court clerk) Kim Davis and Mike Huckabee," he says.
Other changes: The stand-up comedian may experiment with, um, standing. He'll also make more frequent use of the show's diverse team of fake-news correspondents, bolstered by three newcomers,.
"We have this ensemble of different voices that, in my mind, represents America in different ways, which is a new thing to play with," and as peers - he served briefly as one of them - "it's not my job to say everything, which is really cool."
But he's taking a measured approach. "I wouldn't want to rush in and dismantle and destroy the show just because people are going, 'You'd better make it different!' Let's start with what works and let's evolve over time. Jon Stewart made an amazing show, he created something fantastic. I'm not going to be an idiot who goes and smashes it down; I'm going to use that as a foundation to build on."