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'Daily Show' quits Chicago, just like all the other celebs

And so it concludes. With the final night of Trevor Noah’s “Daily Show” stint from Chicago ending, we are left with — what?

Is Steve Harvey still in town? Oprah? Donahue?

Actually, Oprah did make an appearance in Thursday’s pre-credits opening bit. Noah tried to say farewell to the city, pointedly mentioning “Sears Tower.” Props for the throwback reference. Extra credit would have been given for “Waveland Golf Course.”

And then Ms. Winfrey appeared in the clouds, trying to calm him down.

It’s a little sad, Chicago, that two of Noah’s pretend celebrity visits here — to Obama’s South Side house and with an ethereal Winfrey — were with people who haven’t lived in Chicago for a very long time.

But the fault there is not in the stars, or in the show, but in ourselves, in our inability to hang on to talent. It has ever been so: People develop here and then they move on to Washington, D.C., (and then New York) or to Santa Barbara.

But despite our ever-disappearing talent pool, the “Daily Show” did manage to suggest that they’ve had a good time here during the four-night residency at the Athenaeum Theatre.

Thursday, Noah’s monologue was about wishing “the Cubs win forever” because of that crazy bullpen dance the fellas do when the team hits a home run. He compared it, deftly, to a “Peanuts Christmas party.”

But now that wish, uttered during the taping sometime in the 5 p.m. hour, not all that long before the National League Championship Series concluding game was out of reach for the Cubbies, can forever after be referred to as “the ‘Daily Show’ curse.”

No, that would be unfair. “The Daily Show” came in peace. It is local North Side baseball fans who leave the week in pieces, and the two events are wholly unrelated.

While the rest of Noah’s monologue was about President Donald Trump botching calls to slain soldiers’ families, Chicago returned in the show’s second segment. Correspondent Hassan Minaj came out for some riffing on North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un and his love of the classic era Chicago Bulls.

He snuck in an airport joke, which is fair. “Nobody panic. The bomb isn’t going to hit Chicago,” Minaj said, despite the news in recent months citing our city as one that new North Korean weapons could reach. “It’s just going to have a five-hour layover at O’Hare and then it’ll fly to New York, all right?”

If Kim was so impressed with Dennis Rodman visiting him, Minaj wondered, what could the rest of the 72-10 Bulls team do?

The clincher, he surmised, would be MJ, who he pretended to bring on with a reasonable imitation of Jordan’s pre-game introduction from the glory days. (Ouch. This came on a night when the 2017-18 Bulls opened their season by getting routed by the Toronto Raptors.)

“Mike, if you’re watching,” Minaj said, “for the sake of humanity, all you’ve got to do is go to North Korea and let that little Make-a-Wish dictator dunk on you.”

This might be the single most coherent foreign policy prescription for the North Korea problem uttered in 2017.

The concluding interview segment was probably Noah’s best of the week. He immediately established common ground with South Side rapper Vic Mensa over them both having an African and a white parent. Being “halfrican,” Mensa called it, which meant “school and discipline.”

The musician recalled confronting the realities of his race as he matured; in America, he learned, he would be black. He was growing up “five blocks from a project building and five blocks from Obama’s house,” he said. “When I was 12 years old, before I knew who Obama was, I’m pretty sure I ran through his backyard from police. … It might have been his neighbor.”

And then the episode, and this brief visit from big-time show business, was over. It wasn’t as great as it might have been — we’re funnier than it seemed, America! — but it showed the city as more than a set of violence statistics. And it was, on the whole, a good time.

Can we tune in tomorrow morning to “Windy City Live” or “Good Day Chicago” and not feel a little depleted? Come back, Oprah. All is forgiven. We’ll build a hill along Lake Michigan and make it seem like Santa Barbara. Or, wait, isn’t that, more or less, the thing we refused to do for George Lucas?

sajohnson@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @StevenKJohnson

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