May 23, 2024

Trevor Noah is entering his next act as a podcast host. The former host of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” launches his deep-dive interview show, a Spotify original podcast, next week.

In each episode of the new podcast, Noah will have an extended discussion with a single guest. For now, he’s keeping mum on who will be joining him on “What Now?” but said the guests run the gamut from the famous to the obscure.

“We are very lucky,” he said in an interview with Variety. “We have a mix of massive stars as guests, and some people who nobody knows… Not everybody you speak to has to be a superstar. Someone will be No. 1 at the box office, someone will be a scientist who will change how we live for the rest of our lives.”

He added, “The main thing I can say to you: expect to be in some way, shape or form to be entertained and engaged.”

Spotify’s “What Now? With Trevor Noah” premieres next Thursday, Nov. 9, on multiple podcast platforms, with new episodes dropping weekly. The distribution strategy is a departure from Spotify’s previous practice of keeping its podcasts exclusively housed on its own streaming service.

During his run on “The Daily Show,” Noah became known for his cutting political commentary and satire. About the podcast, Noah said, “I’m not going to create an echo chamber… It’s a space for dynamic conversations.”

He elaborated: “There’s no denying that many of us, and I mean on many levels — creators, public figures and individuals — have created echo chambers in their lives. We cease to have conversations with people we don’t agree with. We don’t interrogate our own ideas because we’ve grown comfortable with them. That limits our ability to think and grow over time and create connections with other people.”

“I don’t think I’ve met a single human being where I don’t agree with them on something,” Noah said. He said he’s interviewed Republican politicians and “parts of our conversation are completely aligned. Then I speak with ‘liberal’ people and half the time we disagree.”

Asked if he misses working on “The Daily Show,” Noah said, “Oh, I miss the people and a lot of the show. But in life you sometimes have to let go of something to grab another thing.”

“My biggest takeaway is how much I enjoy having long-form conversations with people,” said Noah, who announced the deal with Spotify this summer after exiting the “Daily Show” after seven years. On a podcast, “You give yourself the breadth to speak about a topic with all the nuances it deserves — we’re in a world of sound bites and things addressed in a tweet.”

Noah said a key difference between the podcast and the “Daily Show” is that the episodes of “What’s Now?” can be any length — and he isn’t beholden to commercial breaks. “Not only can they be longer, I don’t have to worry about cutting away just because of time,” he said. “I can be in a space where I can make the show as long or as short as it needs to be.”

On average, Noah is aiming for podcast episodes that run about 40 minutes, which he said is about the average commute time. “I never want to make something too long,” he said. “I always like to make something I would also be wiling to listen to.”

Is Noah’s “What Now?” podcast going to be… funny? He chuckled and said, “That’s a similar question people about my book” – his 2016 autobiography “Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood.” On the podcast, “There are moments when it’s funny and there are moments when it’s very serious. What people should expect is my life: My filter on the world is, everything is imbued with some things that are funny and some things that are serious.”

Noah continued, “I always find myself laughing with a person. That doesn’t mean the conversations are frivolous or trite. When I was growing up South Africa, there were terrible times but I don’t remember a time when we weren’t laughing… That’s the paradox of living.”

Meanwhile, Noah declined to weigh in on the topic of Comedy Central’s dropping Hasan Minhaj from consideration as the next permanent host of “The Daily Show.” A New Yorker exposé in September revealed that Minhaj embellished some personal anecdotes in his stand-up routines; last week, the comedian responded with a 20-minute video in which he called the article “needlessly misleading.” Asked for his thoughts on the subject, Noah replied, “You see? Perfect example of why you need a podcast. In this interview, I don’t have time to give an answer that is long enough to be respectful of the situation.”

Noah, who’s currently on a nationwide stand-up comedy tour that runs through April 2024, said another advantage of the podcast is that he can record it from anywhere in the world. He’s done some podcasts in New York face-to-face and plans to do several in L.A. in person but said he has the flexibility to record the show from locales as far-flung as London, Amsterdam or South Africa.

The podcast space, to be sure, is very crowded. Noah said he’s focused on breaking through by finding the most fascinating people to interview. “Every space is full,” he said. “New York is one of the most full cities in the world. But there are people on the sidewalk who get your attention where millions of people are walking by.”

“What Now? With Trevor Noah” is executive produced by Noah and Ben Winston alongside Jenna Weiss-Berman and Max Linsky; and produced by Day Zero Productions, Fulwell 73 Productions and Audacy’s Pineapple Street Studios. The series is hosted and distributed by Spotify’s enterprise podcast platform, Megaphone, with Spotify serving as the exclusive ad-sales partner. Presenting sponsors for Noah’s podcast include Amazon, Audi, Microsoft, Prize Picks, Smirnoff and Starbucks.

Noah is comfortable promoting the show’s sponsors, noting that it’s “the nature of the beast” and that as a late-night TV host he had similar obligations. “It’s advertising that is paying for access to people who can’t pay or won’t pay for the product,” he said.

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