Comedy Central announced Monday that South African comedian Trevor Noah will succeed the beloved Jon Stewart as host of “The Daily Show”.
Like many fans of the show, I thought the decision came out of left field. I didn’t even remember seeing him appear on the show, but when I was surfing YouTube Monday—where I found out about the decision—I came across a number of his clips.
In one of his “Daily Show” appearances, he juxtaposed police brutality in Apartheid South Africa with police brutality in America pointing out some stark similarities, while remaining comedic and thus made an impression. I did not find his delivery impressive, something I think previous correspondents of the show like Stephen Colbert and John Oliver are notable for, aside from their writing.
I warmed up to him more when I watched some of his stand-up clips, but was a little wary of the way he represented blonde surfers from Southern California. He seems to rely a great deal on tired American stereotypes in his satire, and when I explored some of his tweets that are circulating in the news right now, they contained many insensitive gender and ethnicity comments.
Considering one of his stand-up shows is called “That’s Racist,” I would hope that he would be as sensitive to other races, ethnicities and identity groups as he would have wanted the subjects of his jokes to have been to him, in the instances where others were making racist comments.
Many fans of the show have taken to Twitter to protest the decision, but while I hope that he personally doesn’t hold these views, I understand that modern comedy has much different standards of sensitivity, and that comedians are challenged to push the limits of what is acceptable–and even offensive–to say for us to laugh.
Look at comedians like Daniel Tosh and Jimmy Carr who have made it a sport to belittle and insult their guests or members of their audiences. Comedians will mock everything from the handicapped and the transgender community to religious extremists and victims of abuse.
I would prefer if comedy would rely more on intellectual creativity that encourages the audience to think than offensive or crass material that relies on shocking the audience to get a laugh. That doesn’t mean these people are not fit to be comedians or even hosts of comedy shows.