Trevor Noah's 'Daily Show' debut honors Jon Stewart, dives right in

/ Source: TODAY

During Monday's premiere of "The Daily Show with Trevor Noah," the new host paid homage to Jon Stewart before diving into the latest headlines and interviewing Noah's first guest, Kevin Hart.

After welcoming the audience to the show and teasing his Hart interview, the 31-year-old South African native thanked Stewart and reflected on the new circumstances with perspective that was funny, humble and sweet.

"Many people are part of the reason that I'm sitting here today, but above all, I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge one man, and that's Jon Stewart," Noah told his studio audience, who lavished the new host with raucous applause, cheers and laughs throughout the episode. "Thank you, Jon. Thank you for believing in me. I'm not quite sure what you saw in me, but I'll work hard every day to find it, and I'll make you not look like the crazy old dude who left his inheritance to some random kid from Africa."

Describing his new gig as "surreal," Noah gave viewers some context. "Growing up in the dusty streets of South Africa, I never dreamed that I would one day have, well, two things, really: an indoor toilet, and a job as host of 'The Daily Show,'" he said. "And now, I have both — and I'm quite comfortable with one of them."

Noah acknowledged that the transition from the 52-year-old Stewart, who ended his 16-year run as "Daily Show" host in August, could be construed as jarring.

"I can only assume that this is as strange for you as it is for me," he told the audience. "Jon Stewart was more than just a late-night host. He was often our voice, our refuge, and in many ways, our political dad. And it's weird, because Dad has left. And now, it feels like the family has a new stepdad, and he's black."

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 28: Trevor Noah hosts Comedy Central's "The Daily Show with Trevor Noah" premiere on September 28, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Brad Barket/Getty Images for Comedy Central)Brad Barket / Getty Images

The theme of old-host/new-host came up again during a segment about John Boehner's pending resignation as Speaker of the House. Noah's discussion with correspondent Jordan Klepper — about a person named Jon or John vacating a position of power — led to some amusing exchanges.

"This is John Boehner," Noah said. "I mean, whoever takes that job will probably fall flat on their face in front of the entire nation."

Klepper replied, "Yeah, I get how you're feeling. Taking over for John Boehner is hard. You know, it doesn't have to be a disaster."

Noah didn't appear convinced. "I don't know about that, Jordan," he mused. "I can already hear everyone saying the thing: 'John, please come back! Please come back!'"

Klepper retorted, "Sure, everyone's feeling nostalgia for the old leader, but maybe the new guy will surprise us and just crush it. I feel like he's going to kill it. I bet he'll bring a new, like, global perspective to things."

In Noah's opening monologue, he also addressed criticism from viewers who'd hoped a woman would get to host in a late-night comedy genre dominated by men, as evidenced by a Vanity Fair article and photo released earlier this month.

"It turns out that Comedy Central did ask women to host, and the women they asked turned the job down, because they all had better things to do, and clearly knew something I didn't," he said. "Also, why didn't they get an American to host? And again, Comedy Central tried, and those people also declined. So, once more, a job Americans rejected is now being done by an immigrant."

RELATED: Get to know Trevor Noah: 5 fun facts about the new 'Daily Show' host

In welcoming old and new viewers to the show, Noah vowed that the show would continue Stewart's legacy of leading the "war on bull [crap]."

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 28: Trevor Noah hosts Comedy Central's "The Daily Show with Trevor Noah" premiere with guest Kevin Hart on September 28, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Brad Barket/Getty Images for Comedy Central)Brad Barket / Getty Images

Other highlights from the premiere included a segment featuring one of the show's new correspondents, Roy Wood Jr.; a breakdown of Pope Francis' recent visit to the United States; and a studio interview with Noah's first guest, fellow comedian Kevin Hart, who came bearing gifts and jokes before discussing Hart's stand-up, movie career and health initiatives.

"I thought you'd be wearing a bunch of suits; you need some ties!" exclaimed Hart, while Noah calmly placed Hart's present under the desk of "The Daily Show's" brand-new set. "That's a thoughtful gift! I thought it was real good. I expected a bigger reaction, whatever."

Among the many celebrities to tweet their support of Noah's debut were comedian Amy Schumer, "Late Late Show" host James Corden, and scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Follow TODAY.com writer Chris Serico on Twitter.