The line to see Comedy Central star Trevor Noah's South by Southwest panel was so long more than an hour and a half before the 12:30 p.m. Saturday start time that for a brief period, it was the Austin Convention Center, snaking the entire length of multiple hallways and stairs. It was a popular pick.
It felt a little crowded on stage, too, once the panel started more than 10 minutes late with a SXSW staffer introduction. A lengthy video clip of "Daily Show" highlights took even more time from the hour-long presentation.
By the time CNN anchor and panel moderator Jake Tapper got to the stage to introduce Noah and six (!) correspondents from the show, it was clear that except for Noah, nobody was going to get to go super in-depth on what makes the show click.
Despite all that, the panel worked largely on the quick wit of Noah, panelists including Ronny Cheng, Dulce Sloan and Desi Lyric, and laser-sharp focus from Tapper, who has become a stalwart and calming presence at big SXSW panels in recent years.
Noah, who flew in to Austin directly from his native South Africa, was loose and funny, but also surprisingly serious about the mission of "The Daily Show," which has broadened in its diversity and international focus since predecessor Jon Stewart left in 2015.
While many comedians who do political comedy decry audiences who only get their news from late-night shows, Noah is embracing that mission and trying to make his audience as informed as he was growing up.
"In South Africa, we knew what was happening in the world and we knew if there was a war in Burundi or something happening in the Asian stock market. We just knew these things and I took it for granted," he said. "It's nice to let people know that something in the world is happening that at some point might affect America." He pointed to Brexit as an example of a news story that could have clued Americans in to political changes coming to the U.S.
Noah and his correspondents said one of the biggest challenges of making "The Daily Show" today is how quickly big news stories pop up that need to be addressed on the show. "(The president is) really great at sucking all of the life out of the news cycle. We've had to learn to embrace that instead of running away from it. ... We've gotten good at it. We embrace the chaos."
The correspondents mostly focused on their particular roles on the show and favorite field segments, praising them for being one way that the show can say what it wants to say beyond reacting to more immediate news.
Roy Wood. Jr. pointed to a segment he did about a Chicago anti-violence group as one tricky comedic challenge.
"It's hard to do jokes on the issue without disrespecting the issue and the people involved. We were able to thread that," he said.
For 2020, Noah said he plans to lean even harder into keeping his audience informed, particularly on what the Democratic presidential candidates have to offer and whether the party will have a civil war for its future.
"We want to be giving you an accurate representation of what's happening in the race and what the candidates are doing and how it'll affect your life," he said.
But he acknowledged to Tapper that even the "Real" news can feel like a comedy show.
He joked: "News has become a parody of itself. I've seen your face sometimes, Jake. It's like 'I'm on Comedy Central.' "
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