Trevor Noah finally takes over "The Daily Show" on September 28th, and with every pre-air interview he grants, we learn more about the elusive heir to TV’s most beloved political satire franchise.
In a new interview with Rolling Stone’s Jonah Weiner, Noah talked about his plans for the franchise; specifically, his plans to make it more diverse in its new iteration. “Already we have people coming in and the racial diversity of the correspondents has gone up dramatically,” explained Noah, who was born in Apartheid South Africa to a white Swiss father and a black South African mother. “I won't tell you who they are but you will see them. Gender-wise, we've got a ton of great female writers, too. In the new submissions, 40 percent of the final writers we decided to go with are female. And finding those voices is difficult but we're lucky in that I've worked with great people of every color and I've worked with fantastic female writers as well. So we're bringing that into the room.”
Noah, whose comedy deals extensively with the issues of race, also addressed the topic of racial injustice in the United States, saying that while he “wouldn’t say America is a white-supremacist country” he believes “America suffers from a level of institutionalized racial segregation.”
“The effect of that is very similar to South Africa: It's difficult to remedy that instantly,” he continued. “If you look at the legacy of slavery, if you look at the legacy of oppression...I mean even if you just look at women's rights, take a step away from racial issues: Society has a long way to go in terms of getting women equal pay, equal recognition in the workplace, and so on. And yet women have been 'free' for many years. Freedom is almost the first step, which a lot of people don't realize,” Noah explained, adding that “Freedom and equality are two totally different conversations.”
As you may recall, Noah’s first foray into the public eye involved him getting pilloried online for a series of insensitive tweets he had written years before, so naturally the topic of political correctness and so-called “outrage culture” came up. While comics like Jerry Seinfeld and Chris Rock have accused political correctness of “killing comedy,” Noah himself is more on the fence.
“I think there's two conversations being rolled into one,” he said. “ The side that I think Jerry and Chris are referring to isn't really political correctness — it refers more to a machine of outrage and a hunger for outrage that has become popular. Everybody wants to speak out on everything, and everybody wants to be offended about something. Instead of getting off their asses and actually being a part of some sort of movement, they just want to put a hashtag on it and go, ‘This is my stamp, this is me supporting something.’ And that's not really activism.”
Much like Sarah Silverman, who recently said that the issue has a lot of “gray matter” for her but ultimately she thinks comics need to change with the times, Noah says it’s important for society to evolve.
“At the same time, we evolve a lot as people and as a society,” he continues. “If you look at jokes that were acceptable 10, 20 years ago, like the way comics referred to certain groups — minorities, people of certain sexual orientations — you go, Wow, I can't believe that was a normal thing to say. At certain points we say, Hey that's actually not acceptable. We shouldn't have been doing that or saying that!”
When Weiner suggested that the outrage machine results in a “a lack of precision in how we deal with and respond to comedic speech, as distinct from other kinds of public speech,” Noah compared comedy to a research laboratory, in that experimentation is necessary to get to the finished product.
“The things we are doing in there are not for everyone to be doing,” he added. “It’s not what everyone can be doing. That's why you do it in the space of a comedic environment. But now because of the social-media world we live in, people take it out of there and now you've got somebody basically running around with a test tube in the middle of the street, and that's not the place that a test tube should be. It should have stayed in the research laboratory.”
We’ll finally get to see what Noah and his team of diverse comic scientists have cooked up in their laboratory when "The Daily Show with Trevor Noah" premieres on September 28. In the meantime, you can read the rest of the interview over at Rolling Stone.