D.L. Hughley on Hosting ‘the Daily Show’ This Week, Trevor Noah’s Exit and the Current State of Comedy

D.L. Hughley talks to Complex about taking over ‘The Daily Show’ this week, Trevor Noah's exit, and the current state of comedy within social media.

DL Hughley Comedy Central
Comedy Central

Image via Comedy Central

DL Hughley Comedy Central

D.L. Hughley has stepped into late-night television. 

Comedy Central’s The Daily Show is ushering in their next chapter after Trevor Noah’s departure by bringing in different guest hosts to take his place. Hughley made his debut on Monday, Jan. 30, and he is part of a roster of other hilarious comedy greats hosting the late-night show in the coming weeks, including Leslie Jones, Wanda Sykes, Chelsea Handler, and Sarah Silverman. 

Hughley was the third host on the list, and the seasoned comedian seemed calm and not at all nervous ahead of his week of hosting. His confidence comes from hosting The DL Hughley Show on the radio every day as well as his prior experience working with the network. He says he knows that the show is a well-oiled machine run by writers and producers he trusts. “I love the motion, I love how big the staff is. I love how nimble they are. A lot of the staff has been around for a couple of incarnations, a couple of hosts,” Hughley tells Complex. “I met a couple of staff members that have been around all 28 years. They definitely know how to hit the strike zone. It’s very hard to trust people at least creatively, at least for me, but they’ve made it an easy process.”

Complex attended the taping of Monday’s show in which Hughley tackled the police killing of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols. Attorney Ben Crump joined virtually as a guest and discussed why the quick arrest of the officers in the Nichols case should be the blueprint moving forward with these police brutality cases. Hughley handled the topic with as much frankness as he covers news on social media and on his radio show. He also was able to share his perspective as a Black American man that the show hasn’t seen with its previous hosts. Hughley seemed right at home in the host’s chair and didn’t shy away from sharing his opinion in a way that was humorous, passionate, thoughtful, and also informative.  

“We don’t like to be uncomfortable, and comedy has a way of informing and satiating a need for knowledge, but without making people feel attacked. When you do it right, I think it’s the only time people listen,” he says. “Comedy has always been the way to have conversations that people wouldn’t necessarily like to have in an open forum.” 

Fans have grown to expect this from The Daily Show, which has been around for 27 years, is the longest-running show on Comedy Central and has won 24 Primetime Emmy Awards for the network. Due to its success, continuing the program seems like an easy choice after Noah announced he was leaving in September. He filmed his last episode in December after seven years of hosting the satirical news show. Noah’s tenure began in September 2015, replacing Jon Stewart who hosted from 1999 to 2015. Stewart shifted the show’s coverage to be more politically focused news satire, a stark difference from his predecessor Craig Kilborn, who started hosting in 1996 and focused more on pop culture. 

“Anytime somebody has done what they can, it’s better to leave through the front door than the back. He left on a high. He had felt like he contributed all he could and he was leaving on his own terms, and anytime somebody does something like that you can’t help but be happy for them,” Hughley says about Noah moving on. “You got to know when to walk away. You don’t want to be Tom Brady. You don’t want to stay too long. Trevor left after his Super Bowl, which is the way to go out—on top.”

Hughley says he is not auditioning to be the permanent host but does hope to bring a fresh take to the show this week. We caught up with the comedian ahead of his stint as The Daily Show’s host, and he tells us all about his preparation for the gig, what he thinks about social media and not being silenced by critics.

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The Daily Show is so important to a lot of people. People are very invested in the show. How are you feeling ahead of your hosting week?

Well, it’s funny. I’ve worked with Comedy Central for a long time. I’ve been a fan of the writers there. I won a Peabody with some of the writers at Comedy Central. So I’m pretty familiar with their rhythm, in addition to being a fan of the show. To me, it’s just an opportunity to get in and say some of the things I always wanted to say, have a good time, and talk to people.

You’re very open and opinionated about any event that’s going on in the news. You never shy away from speaking about certain topics. Most recently, your comments about Dana White and the coverage that it has received. Are you open to bringing your own opinions to the show and how much freedom do you have to do that?

Of course. Well, here’s the thing. I believe they’re very capable. I believe that I’m capable. I believe I have a perspective that is pretty obvious how I feel about things. And so for this week, we’ll just kind of be doing the things that I think are interesting, and then we’ll go back to doing whatever the other hosts want.

But I think Dana White, what’s happening with Florida in terms of Black history not being taught there, I think the Tyre Nichols’s killing, these are things that I will talk about on a daily basis on stage or on my radio show anyway. So this is just kind of a natural, kind of just tails into what I would do on the show. So talking to people, and having an opinion is kind of what I do on a daily basis. 

For sure. And the other names that are listed for these weeks are Chelsea Handler, Wanda Sykes, Sarah Silverman, and Leslie Jones. How do you feel about being among these names? 

I think they’re very talented. I’m not really sure who’s hosting. I haven’t watched the other hosts. I’m sure that they’re having fun. But to me, it’s an opportunity to work with a very talented staff. And say the things I want to say. To me, I’m not auditioning. I’m just there to have a good time and to say what I say. And this is a perfect opportunity to show that format, that audience is picture-perfect for the type of things that I say.

What The Daily Show does best is it uses comedy to tackle serious topics. Why do you think it’s important to be able to deliver the news in a way that’s comedic?

It’s the only way. There’s a reason that the country is obese because we’re addicted to sweet. We’re addicted to saccharine, and we don’t necessarily like the truth. We don’t like to be uncomfortable. Comedy has a way of informing and satiating a need for knowledge, but without making people feel attacked when you do it right. I think it’s the only time people listen. I was reading an article that talked about how more people, more than 60 percent of the American population, get their political information through satire.


And I think it’s because they’ll repeat something they’ve heard via anecdote, or a satirical cartoon, or a joke, and it’s that much easier to repeat it to remember. Comedy has always been the way to have conversations that people wouldn’t necessarily like to have in an open forum. It makes them not so comfortable that they run off screaming.

What is the part that you’re most excited about going into this gig?

I’ve always wanted to do late-night television and it’s always been a passion of mine. And to get a chance to get out there and to tell some jokes and talk to people, be in front of an audience—every week I’m on the road anyway—but there’s something about that medium that I’ve always respected and I’ve always thought it tooted my eye just right.

The idea that you can take something you see, talk about it that night, talk to guests about it, and the fact that you have an apparatus that knows how to do it. They know what they’re doing. They know how to book it, they know how to prepare the material, and they know how to present the material. So it’s really just like, it’s like a Tesla. You put in the directions and it takes you where it’s going.

It’s a self-driving vehicle.

Yeah, kind of, kind of. So I’m really very excited about that aspect. A funny dude getting to work with funny people is always going to be appealing to me.

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You brought up social media and Twitter. Do you think that has affected the way comedians approach their comedy? Or do you think it has had a positive impact also in showcasing new talent? 

Well, I think it’s just another medium. I mean before there was TV, there was radio. Before there was film, there was TV. So it’s just another medium. It’s just another way to explain. Ultimately, it’s still a man or a woman telling you something they think is funny, whatever the vehicle is. People used to have party records and DVDs, but now it’s a whole different vehicle. But the intent is the same. The idea is the same.

The apparatus is all that’s different. I think the great thing about Twitter is that you have more accessibility. The bad thing about Twitter is that everybody, you don’t have to be prompted to say anything dumb, you can just do it in the middle of the night. So it has its advantages. Definitely has its advantages, then it has its drawbacks. Just like any medicine you will take has side effects and one of the side effects of Twitter is how it can get you in a little bit of trouble. But I think it’s like any other thing you take, there are good aspects to it and bad.

For sure. People can also talk back on Twitter. That’s another thing.

Yeah. But apparently, you can attack a Capitol and still be on Twitter. So I guess there’s nothing you could say or do that would be all that bad.

What was the process going into this week of your hosting? Are you preparing now or is it like a day of kind of thing?

Well, every day I do essentially what I’m doing on the radio, essentially what I’m doing on The Daily Show on the radio. So every day I read the same things, I consult with my writers, we sit down, we chill out, and we do the show. So even during that process, I will have done the radio show and then go and do The Daily Show. So it’s really just the same source, different uses, to me. One piece of information, it’s just a different introduction system.

I will say that I love the motion, I love how big the staff is. I love how nimble they are. A lot of the staff has been around for a couple of incarnations, a couple of hosts. I think I met a couple of staff members that have been around all 28 years. So they definitely know how to hit the strike zone and I’ve known that. So it’s very hard to trust people at least creatively, at least for me, but they’ve made it an easy process.

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It’s a perfect formula. And you mentioned wanting to do late-night. What is something in your career that you haven’t done yet that you want to do in the future?

Well, I think that I’m blessed to have done, to get to do what I love all the time, so I never actually think about what it is I haven’t done. I hope that I keep physically sharp and mentally sharp enough to keep doing what I do. I’m never going to retire for what I love. I think I just intrinsically love this art form and all facets of it, even the parts of comedic performances that I don’t necessarily appeal to or understand. I still am respectful and I just enjoy the art form.

I am blessed to get up every day to see things and to be able to say what I see. I’m not auditioning for a job. I’m just having a good time and not having to say something you don’t mean. I’m not having to do something ‘cause I know I’m going to be able to work somewhere. So that is just a blessing to me. To be able to know that you can make a living and satisfy creativity, just doing what you love and being exactly who you are.


The Daily Show airs weeknights at 11:00 p.m. ET/PT on Comedy Central and is available the following morning on Paramount+.

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