'Daily Show' Discussion on CNN, MSNBC Plummets in Trevor Noah Era

Trevor Noah (Photo by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images for for Pencils Of Promise)
June 30, 2020

Discussion of Comedy Central's The Daily Show on MSNBC and CNN has tanked since Trevor Noah took over for Jon Stewart in 2015, a Washington Free Beacon analysis finds.

A Kinetiq media search showed CNN and MSNBC's mentions of the satirical news program or its host fell from a combined 4,420 times during the last five years of Stewart's tenure to 634 times during the first five years of Noah's.

The drastic decrease reflects the loss of influence of Comedy Central's flagship show since Stewart's departure. While Stewart, in the news again with the release of his political satire Irresistible, was cited dozens of times per month on the left-leaning outlets, Noah is a comparative afterthought among the elites.

MSNBC mentioned or cited "Jon Stewart" or "The Daily Show" 2,855 times from Nov. 1, 2010, through Aug. 7, 2015, the day after Stewart's final hosting appearance. That fell to 319 mentions of "Trevor Noah" and "The Daily Show" from Sept. 27, 2015, the day before Noah's first show, through June 30, 2020, a decrease of 88.8 percent.

CNN mentioned or cited "Jon Stewart" or "The Daily Show" 1,565 times from Nov. 1, 2010, through Aug. 7, 2015. "Trevor Noah" and "The Daily Show," however, were mentioned only 315 times from Sept. 26, 2015, through June 29, 2020, a decrease of 79.9 percent.

The Free Beacon's analysis did not include reruns.

MSNBC (284) and CNN (260) mentioned Stewart and his program in February 2015—the month he announced his retirement—almost as much as they have discussed Noah and the show during Noah's entire tenure. MSNBC (264) and CNN (147) also extensively covered Stewart's final week on the show in August 2015.

Both networks leaned on Stewart clips in October 2012, the final month before President Barack Obama's reelection campaign against Mitt Romney. Stewart and The Daily Show received 226 mentions combined on MSNBC (122) and CNN (114) in that month. In October 2016, the final month of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton's election battle, Noah and The Daily Show got just eight mentions from MSNBC (1) and CNN (7).

Besides a brief burst of attention when the largely unknown South African comedian took Stewart's position in September 2015, CNN and MSNBC have almost entirely ignored Noah. While he largely mirrors Stewart's left-wing sensibilities, he has a more cheerful persona than Stewart's sardonic one and focuses less than his predecessor on cable news.

Stewart also largely had the politically focused realm of late-night humor to himself during his 16 years anchoring the show. Owed in part to The Daily Show's influence and popularity with the media, however, the Trump era has seen an increase in politically focused humor from Noah's fellow late-night hosts.

Liberal comedians Seth Meyers, Jimmy Kimmel, and former Daily Show correspondent Stephen Colbert focus heavily on politics and Trump on their nightly network programs. The same goes for liberal hosts Samantha Bee and John Oliver, also former Daily Show correspondents, on their weekly shows Full Frontal and Last Week Tonight.

After Stewart took over The Daily Show in 1999, the cable show transitioned from a focus on pop culture to skewering politicians and the media from a liberal perspective.

His departure was met with open mourning on CNN and MSNBC in 2015. On Aug. 6, 2015, the day Stewart signed off, Rachel Maddow hailed it as the "best news and satire show that our country has ever had."

"If you care about the kinds of things that you probably care about if you watch this show, it's not all that unreasonable to look at this event tonight, to look at Jon Stewart ending The Daily Show, and ask, 'Who are we actually going to be as a country after tonight's last Daily Show?" she said.

According to Kinetiq, Maddow has only mentioned The Daily Show three times in the last three years. Two of those times, it was in reference to Stewart.