Upon hearing the news that South African comedian Trevor Noah would be replacing the legendary Jon Stewart as the host of Comedy Central’s flagship real but fake but hilarious The Daily Show, the Internet went whole controversy hog. The past few days have seen Noah ascend to one of the highest positions in comedy, and descend into the controversial hell-scape of his entire comedic history across the Internet. Basically, Twitter’s been on one ideological thrill-ride.
On Monday, Comedy Central announced that Noah would plant his keester where Stewart’s been sitting these past many years. The entire Internet, before Twitter was harvested for those super regrettable jokes everyone’s now seen, was pretty supportive. In a piece by the New York Times, the president of Comedy Central Michele Ganeless was quoted as commending the comic, whose appointment surprised lots of fans who expected the likes of Samantha Bee and Jessica Williams to host.
Then the Internet and all the social media masterminds culled a pile of pretty offensive tweets tweeted by Noah over the past few years. The vast majority of the ones that have now proliferated over every Internet machine imaginable smacked of anti-Semitism and misogyny. Even Lionel Messi wasn’t safe from the string of poorly written, omni-offensive tweets.
Coverage by Time, who’ve been so kind as to mush all the tweets into one article, tried to give as many angles to the backlash as possible, citing folks as being up in arms over the insulting comedy, as well as supportive of Noah’s freedom to be a jerk comic because of the stage persona defense and whatnot. And there were more than a few who wondered why Noah hadn’t done a sweep of his Twitter before. Anyone who knows the Internet understands that a powerful position like host of The Daily Show is going to be scrutinized by the entire web.
After roughly a million tweets back and forth, and many Facebook friendships in shambles, Comedy Central issued a statement reminding the masses that Noah is a comedian who pushes boundaries. NPR published their official statement as well as a number of tweets commenting on the issue; the main narrative highlighted how quickly Noah went from an icon of progression in media to an utter villain amidst sprawling social media.
If the question remains over whether the tweets were overtly offensive, I’d say yes, there was very little redeemable about the jokes Noah posted. They were a bit outrageous, and not very clever or nuanced to boot. In the NPR piece, he’s cited as tweeting that the moment humor makes people think, it’s bad news, but if you read the posts he’s being scrutinized for, none of it really adds up to a veritable think piece on the state of human affairs. Aggression towards females and Jewish folks blatantly abounds.
The whole “but it’s comedy” argument is pretty weak too, if we’re getting into the nitty-gritty of the matter. Comedy can often be brutally honest, but if it’s going to tackle possibly incendiary material of any kind, there has to be some intelligence behind it. It’s not a license to be a dick to everything and get off scot-free. Uppercutting ladies after negated proposals doesn’t really inspire a whole lot of chuckles.
Internet critics have been quick to sound the death knell for Jon Stewart’s coveted news satire program, but… some real dumb tweets a bigoted monster does not make. That said, having seen a bit of Noah’s stand-up, it’s pretty clear the comic has some growing up to do in terms of how he handles his humor, especially in the seat he’s about to fill. The New York Times also covered Comedy Central’s rebuttal statement, and wrote that the network hopes this kind of humor won’t appear again.
When all’s said and done, the Internet did blow the entire event into untold proportion, but Noah now knows he has to step up his game and be humble or the Internet won’t let the comedian’s cheeks hit seat before heaps more controversy. That’s not the legacy The Daily Show wants. The show may be comedy, but enough people now look to it as a source of intelligent media, and any humor that’s similar to those tweets could land the program right at home with the ridiculous knee jerk outlets Stewart has spent a career and a half cleverly lampooning.
(I still think it’s a total travesty that Samantha Bee wasn’t given the hot seat. Show some balls, Comedy Central, and put a woman up front! – Ed)