Trevor Noah has opened up about his impending Daily Show exit, revealing that he surprised his crew and network by announcing the news on air—just one day after meeting with Paramount executives—so it wouldn’t leak.
The 38-year-old comedian says that apart from wanting to focus on other ventures like his production company, Zero Day, and his stand-up, he also began feeling more burned out during the COVID-19 pandemic.
That, plus a casual reminder of the show’s seventh anniversary, drove his decision to quit on camera on Sept. 29. “I feel like it’s time,” a serious but grateful Noah said during the impromptu five-minute speech.
“Part of the reason I did it that way is because I didn’t want anybody to be the person who then tells somebody else, who then tells somebody else, who then tells somebody else,” Noah told The Hollywood Reporter in a new cover story. “And this is where we create the thing. [The show] is where we’re together, our space, and so for me, it felt like the most natural way to tell everybody at the same time.”
Noah was tapped to replace longtime Daily Show host Jon Stewart in 2015 after appearing on the satirical news show just three times as a correspondent. Noah’s ratings weren’t great, but clips from his shows regularly garner a ton of views online. He and the show were also consistently nominated for Emmys during his time behind the desk.
His staff was shocked at the surprise announcement.
“He starts talking and talking, and I look at Zhubin [Parang, the show’s head writer], like, ‘What is he doing? We’re going to have to edit this,’” showrunner Jen Flanz told THR.
Flanz says they “lost all feeling in our bodies” once they realized what was happening.
“Did you know?” Parang whispered. “Does it look like I knew?” Flanz replied.
Noah says that despite making at least $10 million a year on the show, he was feeling burned out after constantly paying attention to the news and juggling his other passions, namely stand-up, with the demands of the four-day-a-week show. The pandemic, he says, made it worse.
“My previous assistant was always running down hallways trying to find me because I was always in other people’s offices, chatting and laughing and coming up with ideas, and we had these big meetings and everybody was there and I loved it,” Noah said. “Now, everybody in the building has masks and we’re limited in how many people can be there at a given time and where you can or can’t be, and because I’m the host, I’m in this bubble. They’re all like, ‘He cannot get COVID.’ And so, what was already an isolated experience was exacerbated, and all of these things just add up.”
The shocking news came just one day after Noah sat down with Paramount executives Chris McCarthy and Keyes Hill-Edgar to talk about ways to make the show easier for him.
“And actually, if you talk to Keyes, who was with me when we were walking back to the office after lunch, I said, ‘We lost him.’ I didn’t know [that he’d be making the announcement the very next day], obviously, but I knew that our time was short,” McCarthy told the magazine.
Noah has no hand in picking the next host, though he says he’s been sitting down with all his correspondents, including suspected successor Roy Wood Jr., to get them up to speed.
“I wish someone had told me what a grind it was,” Noah said.
In an interview with The Daily Beast’s Last Laugh podcast last month, Wood Jr. also said he found out about Noah’s departure along with the rest of the world.
Asked about the possibility of taking over Noah’s chair, he said: “I think if you’re asked, you have to at least consider it. You can’t say no to an opportunity like that. You can’t turn your nose up at it at least. I think you have to sit and assess what you want to do creatively, and that’s something I haven’t thought about yet. How would I design the car? Would I put a front wing on it? Would I put some Fast and Furious neon lights on? Would I tint the windows? And then figuring out, creatively, if that makes sense. “