Relatively unknown in this country, Trevor Noah was an unlikely choice to replace Jon Stewart as host of Comedy Central’s satire-news program “The Daily Show.” And as some observers have pointed out, though Noah is bi-racial and from South Africa — adding to the diversity of faces on late-night television — there is still a dearth of women in the high-visibility positions.
Though he only appeared on the show a handful of times, Noah was tapped to take over the station’s flagship show over regular correspondents Samantha Bee, Jessica Williams and others like the very funny, talented and known Donald Glover.
Following “The Daily Show” announcement, some of Noah’s off-color, boundary-pushing tweets from as long ago as 2009 were found, pored-over and deemed offensive. Yes, he made fun of some stereotypes and touched on sensitive subjects like Israel, but the real problem with choosing a Stewart replacement is the show’s format. Because it invites satire of real subjects in the form of a newscast, which, despite millions who enjoy that and believe they are getting the news, they are actually not.
The show is an observer’s take and shaped along with the help of comedy writers. Despite millions of Americans who think it’s a newscast, it’s not. Sorry to bring down the fun, Millennials, but “The Daily Show” is not an actual news program in any kind of journalistic sense.
Maybe this sounds suspiciously like the ravings of a stuffy old man, but why does news have to be funny anyway? When the show debuted in 1996, it broke all the rules and was a renegade in a pressed-shirt world. But today, millions, especially young people, actually use it as a main source of news and information.
If the show’s host is expected to be a stone-faced newsman in the form of Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw or other legendary broadcast journalists, he can’t make jokes like Noah’s and get away with it. However, if the host were a comedian, he would be expected to push the limits of what is considered acceptable.
That’s why it makes no sense to get on Noah for tweets he made years ago. Are they even part of his act or just passing missives he thought were funny but didn’t land? I would say clearly the latter. And if there is a person on planet Earth who has ever used social media and doesn’t have a tweet, post, picture or blog that they regret, please raise your hand.
To reduce my views to a handful of jokes that didn’t land is not a true reflection of my character, nor my evolution as a comedian.
— Trevor Noah (@Trevornoah) March 31, 2015
Political correctness and, conversely, those who claim their speech has been taken over and decry that they can’t say anything anymore are missing the point. Comedy is relative. A joke is not offensive to a group or individual if a certain amount of people finds it amusing. The real bad joke is something very few people are reacting to: Why are there basically only men — save for Chelsea Handler, whose “Chelsea Lately” ran for seven years on E! and who is currently developing a show with Netflix — on late-night television?
Whatever someone may think of Noah’s social media presence, Comedy Central is standing by its decision. And it is right to not bend to the pressure of social media reactors, especially if the jokes were made years ago. Noah certainly has big shoes to fill with Stewart’s leaving, but this is a man who just performed in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and if that wasn’t a tough crowd to get a laugh out of, “The Daily Show” regulars should be a layup.
Noah Zuss is a reporter for TheBlot Magazine.