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Campus Lens

A Comedy Collaboration

David Paul Meyer ’03 takes home an Emmy thanks to longtime partnership with comedian Trevor Noah.

David Paul Meyer and Trevor Noah with their Emmy awards.
Photograph courtesy of David Paul Meyer

As a longtime television director, David Paul Meyer ’03 understands the value of capturing special moments. It’s a big part of a talk he gives to student interns at The Daily Show, a comedic take on the news that airs on Comedy Central, before they head back to school.

“Television is about capturing moments,” says Meyer, who is a supervising producer and director of the show. “If you think about any movie or tv show, you’re thinking about some scene or some line of dialogue — a moment.”

Meyer, who began working at The Daily Show as a field producer in 2015, had his own moment recently. He won an Emmy in January when the show was honored as the best variety talk series. “It was just a thrill, truly exciting,” Meyer says of the show’s win. “It was a big surprise to all of us.”

David Paul Meyer with his Emmy award on the set of The Daily Show on Comedy Central.
Photograph by Matt Wilson/Comedy Central’s The Daily Show

There was another special moment that launched Meyer on his journey to an Emmy — and it happened far away, in Johannesburg, South Africa. After earning a degree in computer science at NC State, Meyer worked as a software developer at SAS in Cary, N.C. But he had an interest in films and filmmaking that was stoked by an English teacher at his high school in Goldsboro, N.C., and an introductory film class at NC State. Meyer even tried his hand at some rudimentary filmmaking, producing a documentary on a trip he took to Kyrgyzstan in 2005 and filming comedy sketches he did with friends.

On a bit of a whim, Meyer applied to film school at the University of Southern California. To his surprise, he was accepted. “I called them to ask if they were sure,” he says. Assured that he was in, Meyer moved to California to pursue a master’s in film and television production.

Meeting Trevor Noah

For his master’s thesis, Meyer wanted to make a documentary about people doing stand-up comedy somewhere in Africa. An acquaintance was familiar with a budding comedy scene in South Africa in the years after apartheid, so he booked a two-week trip to Johannesburg. It was there that he met a young stand-up comedian named Trevor Noah. “As soon as I saw him perform the first time, I thought ‘This guy is special,’” Meyer recalls. “He took his status as an outsider and figured out a way to connect with everybody. He was super hilarious.”

Meyer returned to South Africa a year later to get more footage of interviews with Noah and of his performances. The result was a documentary, You Laugh But It’s True, that was released in 2011, and a budding partnership between Meyer and Noah. “Professionally, we hit it off right away,” Meyer says. “We have similar sensibilities of what we find funny.”

As Noah’s comedy career took off, Meyer directed all of his television stand-up specials. And their creative collaboration turned into a friendship. “From all the time we spend together, we just get each other,” Meyer says. “We have a lot of the same interests. We both enjoy food, love going to the movies.”

Joining The Daily Show

So when Noah became host of the The Daily Show in 2015, replacing Jon Stewart, he asked Meyer to join the show as a field producer. Meyer eventually moved up to become the show’s director and supervising producer. When the show won the Emmy in January, Noah described Meyer as his “partner in crime.”

David Paul Meyer with Jordan Klepper on the set of The Daily Show on Comedy Central.
Photograph by Matt Wilson/Comedy Central’s The Daily Show

Noah left the show in 2022 (although the recent Emmy was for shows while he was still the host), but Meyer is still directing the show with a rotating cast of guest hosts. Meyer lives in suburban New Jersey with his wife, Jocelyn Conn, and four children, and would like to continue his work at The Daily Show while also working on projects with Noah.

“What I love about it is tackling the unknown every day, all these opportunities for creativity,” he says of his work on the show. “How do we break this down for comedy? There are so many people at our show who are really smart and hilarious and have strong points of view. It’s fun to work with people like that.”

David Paul Meyer with Trevor Noah on the set of The Daily Show on Comedy Central.
Photograph courtesy of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show

Meyer and his wife, who also won an Emmy this year, celebrated late into the night after the awards ceremony was over. With their Emmy awards in hand, they crashed a party hosted by Netflix before reconnecting with others from The Daily Show to close down a bar in West Hollywood.

Meyer’s Emmy award, along with two Conn has won, sits in the family room at their home in New Jersey. “I can hold my head high now,” he says with a laugh.

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