Thirty-one-year-old comic Trevor Noah was hired to replace Jon Stewart yesterday, and the backlash has already arrived with a vengeance. Noah has a large following in his native South Africa, and has toured extensively abroad, but he isn't so well-known in the U.S. — to date, he has three "Daily Show" "correspondent" appearances under his belt — and it’s looking like some of his comedic sensibilities might not find such a warm audience stateside.
Noah is mixed-race, with a half-Jewish Xhosa mother and Swiss father, and much of his material centers on the issue of race. However, people have noticed that a slew of of Noah's tweets -- mostly posted in 2012 and prior -- include unfunny, questionably offensive jokes about Jews and women. You can see some of them below:
Naturally, people were not happy about what they saw:
There are a lot of issues at play here: First, why didn’t Comedy Central (or Noah himself) go back and give his Twitter account a deeper read before making him the public face of its biggest show? And do these tweets express genuinely racist and sexist sensibilities that we should be concerned about, or are they just bad jokes — a function of the digital-age comedian being forced to practice in public, with Twitter as his open mic? (All the comics I know arguably have bad, distasteful jokes from when they were starting out that they wouldn't wanted aired as part of their "Daily Show" audition package.) Is this p.c. culture going into overdrive, or is the deep-rooted ignorance and puerility expressed in some of these tweets a red flag for an (aspiring) political satirist? Deciding whether these tweets are truly offensive is a matter of taste, certainly -- but isn’t not being funny enough of a crime here?
However you traverse these complex issues, it's a messy situation that makes Noah look amateur and Comedy Central look naive, at best. Perhaps Kevin Roose said it best: