‘The Daily Show’ in Chicago Dishes Deep on the City

Steve Johnson, Chicago Tribune, October 17, 2017

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With his first of four “Daily Shows” from Chicago this week, Trevor Noah presented America with a more nuanced version of the Windy City than it has been seeing lately.

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“‘It’s a good thing you’re wearing a suit, Trevor,’” Noah said folks would tell him. “‘You’ll save the undertaker some time.’”

President Trump, the host said, has been playing to that same bias with his complaints about Chicago being allegedly worse than Afghanistan.

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“Now I get it,” he said. “When there’s shooting, Obama’s from Chicago. All the other times, he’s from Kenya.”

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They stood and cheered lustily on Noah’s entrances and exits. They stood for the interview guest, Chicago rapper and activist Common, who further underscored the message that Chicago is so much more than crime statistics. They cheered the middle of the show’s three segments, too, between the monologue and the interview, in which correspondent Roy Wood Jr. visited with the Cease Fire community anti-violence group on the South Side.

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He wanted to bring the show here, the 33 year old said, because this had been one of the first cities to support his nascent American stand-up career and one of the first to embrace “TDS” during his rocky early days after the young South African took over for Jon Stewart in Sept. 2015.

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Asked what he liked about Chicago, he said, in a moment viewers at 10 p.m. will not hear on air, “Part of it is people constantly needing to defend their pizza, which is weird.” Plus, he added, “it’s got the beauty of New York, but at the same time it’s got the cleanliness of Chicago — and the segregation reminds me of home.”

During another break, he pointed out that President Trump splashed his name on his building here like the villain in a Superman movie.

While calling out Chicago’s segregation is hardly playing to the crowd, criticizing Trump certainly hit a sweet spot. Indeed, in a taping that came off smoothly on a technical level, the only bit that needed to be reshot, the host said, was because the crowd had booed more loudly than sound technicians expected during a clip segment showing the president’s criticisms of Chicago.

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Maybe, when all was said and done, Monday’s wasn’t the funniest “Daily Show” that has ever aired. Talk of murder rates, the very sincere interview with Common and a taped piece about tamping down gang violence aren’t exactly a recipe for recording America’s next great sitcom laugh track.

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During a break, Noah suggested that maybe the extreme anomalies of the Cubs winning last fall’s World Series and Trump winning the same season’s presidential election were not unrelated.

Would people be willing to let the Cubs lose this year in order to lose the president, he wondered aloud. And they cheered, and you knew that a fellow who can sell Cubs losses to a North Side crowd is one who has those people seeing things his way.

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