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SXSW: Trevor Noah on How ‘The Daily Show’ Plans to Cover the 2020 Election

When Trevor Noah first took over the role of “The Daily Show” host from Jon Stewart in 2015, one year after becoming the Comedy Central show’s senior international correspondent, the television news landscape was changing, becoming ever-more consumed with the contentious 2016 presidential election. Now in the role for a few years, with that news pace never letting up, the host shared how he plans to cover the upcoming 2020 election on his show at SXSW Saturday.

“It’s easy to get caught up in things that offend people, but not the things that affect people. Trump is good at doing that. He’ll throw out a bunch of random tweets and people get offended. Meanwhile, his administration [is] gangster in the streets. They’re not offending anyone on the scale that he is, but they’re affecting so many more people. Going into 2020, [we’re going to be] giving you an accurate representation of what is happening in the race, and what the candidates actually stand for, and how it will affect your life,” Noah said.

Noah also admitted that in his time on the show he has learned “there is no news cycle — there is no schedule; there is no plan.”

“When we started…the news cycle had a certain cadence to it. There was a rhythm. You knew that at a certain time there’d be no news, so you could compile your stories and create your show. Now, there’s the 5:30 curse, we call it. At 5:30 pm, somebody’s getting indicted, some tweet is coming out, somebody is getting into some scandal. Something is going to happen,” Noah said.

Rather than grow frustrated, “The Daily Show” team has learned how to embrace the changes rather than resist them. “We create the show for the day, and we know full well there’s a good chance we’ll have to create most of the show and create something that’s closer to what’s happening on that day,” the host continued.

CNN’s Jake Tapper, who moderated the panel discussion featuring Noah and his correspondents correspondents Ronny Chieng, Michael Kosta, Desi Lydic, Dulce Sloan, Roy Wood Jr. and Jaboukie Young-White, pointed out that the digital presence of “The Daily Show” has provided the series with a new platform for them to explore other ways of approaching, and satirizing, newsworthy moments outside of their episodic format.

One of the ways “The Daily Show” utilizes this new platform is by conducting longer, more nuanced interviews while on set. These are edited to fit the show’s 30-minute window, but then are released in full online.

“I realized there wasn’t enough time to have an in-depth conversation in five, six minutes,” Noah explained. “I don’t like jumping straight into what feels like an ambush, or it being softball because I only had the time to say ‘Hey, how are you?’”

So far it seems Noah’s audience sees the value in the longer-form content on a platform usually reserved for short clips, too: Tapper cited that it has become the most engaged-with late night show currently in circulation, with tens of millions of digital interactions.

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