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Trevor Noah’s Tweets Make Me Ask ‘What if Jon Stewart Had Twitter In His ’20s?’


I’ve now seen 2 posts about Trevor Noah’s “offensive” tweets from 2011-2012, one from UPROXX and another from Esquire and now it seems every media outlet is covering this non-story. I’ve read the tweets and they pale in comparison to what went down on Comedy Central’s Justin Bieber Roast last night, which even had me cringing. The Ari Shaffir rant (from his “Passive Aggressive” special 2 years ago) about the one-armed comedian Damienne Merlina was pretty brutal. Comedy’s taking it on the chin lately and the outrage seems to be pouring over on to the new 31-year-old Daily Show host.

I’ve heard and seen way, way more offensive jokes than the ones Trevor delivered on Twitter, a place where comedians often test material. Most comedians use Twitter as a place to see what jokes stick and work from there. Some are duds, it’s part of the process. As a comedian, I’ve gone through phases where it’s like nothing’s working, nothing’s funny, and you reach out of desperation. Sometimes you go with shock value or something atypical to who you are. And audiences – most audiences – hate that. They want authenticity and material that comes from a genuine place. Truth hyperbolized or embellished or glamorized in a believable way.

I could understand how people could’ve been floored by the jokes on the Bieber Roast. That panel of roasters had Shaq (co-host on TNT, multiple shows and endorsements) laughing at some seriously offensive material. Martha Stewart making and taking jokes that would have soccer moms and advertisers sharting themselves in horror. I don’t think there’s a tidal wave of turmoil or backlash against those personalities. Even Kevin Hart looked a little worried after Snoop’s speech.

Ari Shaffir is known for being offensive. Supporting his work is viewed as offensive. Case in point, I’ve been scolded on Facebook for promoting his work. The only other time I’ve been scolded on Facebook was by a former classmate at Hopkins for me working at Playboy (I’d love to know her thoughts on Scientology!). When I watched his Passive Aggressive special on Comedy Central a couple weeks ago, I knew it was about 2 years old. I even asked if Dailymotion could exclusively host it back when I found out Chill went belly up sight unseen. I remember seeing that joke and thinking ‘wow, this is an unabashed, balls-out setup, hopefully the punchline pays off.” I gave it a chance and it had a decent punchline, but damn, it was cold-blooded. Even for Ari. Typically, I think he wouldn’t name drop when he sh*ts on another comedian, but this time he did. So, part of me thinks it’s an epic troll. A collaboration between he and Damienne to give her “the Ari Bump”, if that’s a thing. He’s blowing up and now is the time for him to carry his colleagues into the spotlight. If it is, that’s some Andy Kaufman type level stuff.

My point is Trevor Noah’s tweets shouldn’t warrant this kind of backlash. I believe the only reason he’s getting this kind of reaction is because it’s The Daily Show and Jon Stewart has transformed what it means to be the host of a late night comedy show / news program / talk show. He took what had been a sophomoric program hosted by the smarmy Craig Kilborn, who I actually enjoyed as a kid watching SportsCenter, and turned it into a worldwide phenomenon in which cultural, political, societal, economic discourse was presented in a funny fashion but, also, with an intelligent bent. The show has been elevated to such a status that people were serious about Stewart and Stephen Colbert running for office.

So, because Trevor Noah – THE COMEDIAN – fired off a handful of provocative tweets during his late 20s that were intended to bring amusement and/or elicit laughter, now he shouldn’t host The Daily Show? Are you f***ing kidding me? It’s insane. Granted, my outrage over the outrage is a little outrageous considering I’ve never even seen his act. Nevertheless, it leads me to ask, “What if Jon Stewart had Twitter when he was in HIS late ’20s?”. It would’ve been 1989, Reagan’s term came to an end, George Bush Sr was in office. Don’t you think that Jon Stewart had a joke or two about heavy women, Jewish women, etc.? Maybe in his notes, in his journals of jokes he had some jokes that were on the offensive side and decided not to use them. He had the thoughts and if he had something like Twitter at his disposal, who’s to say he wouldn’t have done the same thing? Instead, only dozens of people who are dead, delirious, or don’t care heard it at an open mic or 2 AM set. Is this really how things are gonna play out? We’re gonna take political tactics and apply them to hosts of a goddam comedy show? Lorde help me if I ever get the magnifying glass turned on me.

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