A new piece in The Hollywood Reporter points out remarkable similarities between a joke that Trevor Noah told at L.A.’s Politicon this Saturday and a bit that Dave Chappelle did on HBO in 1998.
While it’s possible that great minds just think alike — or, more likely, that Noah heard the bit long ago and subconsciously internalized it — there are some egregious similarities between the bits, from an identical premise to the use of the unusual phrase “racism connoisseur.” While the observation about the difference between Northern and Southern racism certainly isn’t unique, the structure and wording of the bits are a little too close for comfort, down to the punchline which has both Chappelle and Noah greeted by a man using the n-word.
You can read THR's full transcripts and watch videos of the segments below:
Before I came to America, I thought I knew all kinds of racism. I've always considered myself something of a racism connoisseur. I appreciate the finer racism. Not to say I appreciate all racism, but a finer racism. Before I came here, blatant racism was my favorite. Blatant racism, where you know exactly where you stand, often perpetrated by old people, which I have always appreciated. They'll just tell it to you like it is. 'This is what I think about you!' Yeah, you're going to die soon. ... Charming racism in America changed my life. I discovered it in a place called Lexington, Kentucky. Probably one of the most wonderful places I've ever been — charming, friendly people. Racism with a smile and a tip of the hat. ... I was walking through the streets, a man walked up to me, didn't know me from a bar of soap, came straight up to me and looked me dead in the eye, and he was like, 'Good afternoon, n—er.' 'Good afternoon.' I've never seen racism with a smile. I didn't know what to do. He just said it like it was a fact. As if I fought him, he would have been like, 'What, didn't you know?’
Traveling has made me a racism connoisseur, if you will. You know, it's different region to region. Anyone ever been down South? So you guys know what I'm talking about. The racism down there is just f—ing — it's perfect. Stewed to a perfection. It's conformable. It's out in the open. There are no secrets in Mississippi. Everybody knows the deal. "Morning, n—er!" "Morning, sir!" Not up here. Here in the big cities, it's a secret. And we should be like them. We should keep our shit out in the open and vent a little — I mean with limits. You don't want to say whatever comes to your mind, that might be a little much. White dude be walking down the street minding his business and a brother walk up to him: "Hello, you white oppressor, you slave-master rapist of Africa." "Why hello, my big-lips, spear-chucking friend.”
This isn’t the first time Noah has been accused of stealing jokes. Russell Peters called Noah a joke thief in an interview earlier this year, before later backtracking and saying it was a “prank.” Back in 2013, comic David Kau made similar allegations, to which Noah responded: "Comedy is your personal take on a thing. Do you get what I’m saying? Like half the jokes young black comedians are doing in America right now, Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy were doing 20 years ago.”