Two months ago, Jon Stewart dropped an unexpected bombshell on the world when he announced that he would be leaving The Daily Show after hosting it since 1999. He didn’t say where he was going and he didn’t say who would succeed him as host. We still don’t know about the former, but earlier this week, we learned about the latter. It’s going to be Trevor Noah.
That’s the exact reaction most of us had when the announcement was made, because Trevor Noah is still a relative unknown. Or rather he was until he suddenly found himself amidst all kinds of controversy for some off-color comments and jokes he had tweeted. It’s not like those tweets were new; they were just being uncovered now that he was going to step into the spotlight as the new host of The Daily Show.
Curiously, this means that Comedy Central’s late night lineup is going from a couple of middle-aged white guys (Stewart and Colbert) to a couple of guys of color… though Trevor Noah and Larry Wilmore are very different people.
The comedy stylings of the young Trevor Noah (he’s only 31) can be viewed as inappropriate and stepping over the line. He makes jokes about American culture and how it differs so sharply from his upbringing in apartheid-era South Africa as a boy of half-black and half Swiss-German descent. He has tweeted about the situation in Israel. He has joked about “fat chicks.”
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
Are these jokes offensive? Maybe, but it’s not like Trevor Noah is the first comedian or satirist to joke about “inappropriate” things. Indeed, some of the world’s best comedians, like Louis CK, have made a career out of saying inappropriate things. If John Oliver can poke fun at America in equal measure as he makes fun of his British heritage, if black or Hispanic comedians can joke about race relations, I see no problem with the “boundary-pushing” nature of Trevor Noah.
In all honesty, we’ve heard a lot worse (I’m looking at you, Bob Saget) and The Daily Show has never been about staying in line either.
To get a sense of what we can expect from Trevor Noah moving forward, here are a couple of clips from his standup routine. Be warned that he does use some “colorful” language, so the videos may not be safe for work. I hope you don’t get offended.