It's been one day since Comedy Central announced Trevor Noah as Jon Stewart's replacement on "The Daily Show," and the South African comedian is already facing accusations of anti-Semitism, sexism and fat-shaming because of his Twitter feed.
Monday night, BuzzFeed Community Growth Manager Cates Holderness retweeted a number of overtly offensive jokes that Comedy Central's PR team failed to delete. (Reminder: A tweet, much like a diamond, is forever.)
"Oh yeah the weekend. People are gonna get drunk & think that I'm sexy!" - fat chicks everywhere.
— Trevor Noah (@Trevornoah) October 14, 2011
Behind every successful Rap Billionaire is a double as rich Jewish man. #BeatsByDreidel
— Trevor Noah (@Trevornoah) May 12, 2014
Messi gets the ball and the real players try foul him, but Messi doesn't go down easy, just like jewish chicks. #ElClasico
— Trevor Noah (@Trevornoah) January 25, 2012
Looking at how successful all the Kardashian women are, I don't blame Bruce Jenner at all.
— Trevor Noah (@Trevornoah) February 5, 2015
Noah's tweets are incredibly disappointing. There is no excuse for lazy, offensive humor that targets marginalized groups. Expressing sentiments like "LOL fat chicks" and "LOL Jewish girls who won't put out" is not a great way to establish yourself as the critical and hilarious voice of authority on American politics. And, the misogynistic undertone of some Noah's jokes also make it clear, yet again, why we need more women hosting late-night TV shows.
But, the backlash serves as a reminder not to jump too quickly into a cycle of Internet rage.
Comedians should -- and will -- be called out for jokes that miss the mark. After all, comedy is at its best when it skewers deep-seated, ignorant stereotypes -- not when it plays into them.
However, Noah's head-meet-desk Twitter history doesn't necessitate advocating for his immediate character assassination and firing from a job he has yet to start. Noah seems smart, his three appearances on "The Daily Show" were funny, and as a young, biracial man of color who grew up in apartheid South Africa, he's in a unique position to deliver sharp commentary about race -- something the American public always needs to hear. (Plus... those dimples. Sigh.)
Noah is still just a comedian who hasn't yet reached the pseudo-newsman status of Jon Stewart. If Twitter had existed when Stewart was a snappy, smoking, leather jacket-wearing comic in the '90s, he might have had some regrettable moments, too.
Though the "The Daily Show" is a fake news program, its audience relies on the show for real news purposes. This puts greater pressure on the host, correspondents and writers to use comedy responsibly and to address issues Americans are facing in a meaningful way. Noah has been given the seal of approval from Stewart himself and has proven that he does have the ability to be culturally aware.
"For South Africa to achieve that kind of black-white wealth gap, we had to construct an entire apartheid state denying blacks the right to vote or own property," he quipped on the "The Daily Show" in December. "But you, you did it without even trying. We trained for decades and you just waltzed in and won the gold medal."
It's jokes like the one above that allow us to remain cautiously optimistic about Noah. Idiotic "comedy" on Twitter isn't a reason to start a witch hunt or definitively declare someone a sexist anti-Semite. It's a reason to demand better.As The Frisky's Beejoli Shah tweeted:
Here's the thing to keep in mind re: @Trevornoah. Him using lazy jokes doesn't mean he's not good. Him being good doesn't excuse lazy jokes.
— Beejoli (@beejoli) March 31, 2015
Hopefully Noah and Comedy Central have gotten the message that lazy, shamey humor isn't what viewers of "The Daily Show" want. Here's to continued hope about the future of the late-night show -- and a suggestion that Noah's first segment with the correspondents be a healthy dose of mockery from Kristen Schaal and Jessica Williams.
For more on the future of "The Daily Show":