I didn’t really want to write a thinkpiece about the Noah situation, but I was emailing a friend and we got to talking about it, so I basically cut my response to her and added a little to make it fit for public consumption because because because…
I’m a little mixed on the Trevor Noah thing, to be honest. He’s not who I would have chosen to take over The Daily Show. Jessica Williams is miles ahead of him as a comedy mind, but she didn’t want it. I feel like Jason Jones had an iconic run on that show and is being rewarded with a cold shoulder and a TBS sitcom. And Aasif Mandvi would have also been a much better choice thanks to his high caliber mind and his long career of excellence as a corespondent.
I don’t think that Noah’s work on the show has been anything above middling and I don’t think his stand-up is that great either.
I also don’t understand Stewart’s remarks in the press release when he said that Noah is where he was when he took the show. Stewart was a bestselling author, had an HBO special, multiple movie roles (all terrible), a two season run as the host of his own show on MTV, was the runner-up to Conan for Late Night and had a holding deal with Letterman to replace Tom Snyder at 12:30 for CBS. I know that Noah has had a longish career in South Africa, and that does count for something when the Daily Show is becoming increasingly global, but the show is — first and foremost — a US based show that needs to hook a US audience. And Trevor Noah hasn’t done anything on US television that will help in that effort. To US audiences, he is an unknown, and reversing that requires more than word-of-mouth. Plus, the show Noah is inheriting is well defined and a part of the fabric of our culture, whereas Kilborn’s version was softer and less relevant at the time. The comparison between their situations just doesn’t make sense.
As for the scandal, I really don’t think that the twitter jokes were all that offensive, but it takes a lot for me to be offended by something, especially when it’s a joke on twitter. Those tweets are, however, painfully unfunny, but anyone who has ever tried to be funny on twitter has had their share of misfires. The thing is, I haven’t seen a lot of the other kinds of tweets either — the funny ones. But maybe he’s just bad at twitter.
As for the blowback, that job isn’t like any other late night or comedy job. Jon Stewart isn’t a fake newsman and talk show host, he’s the people’s champion, and it’s hard for people to feel like you’re on their side when you’re making fun of them in a stereotypical and crude manner. So I get why it’s disappointing to a lot of people. But I’m also glad that Comedy Central put out a statement in support of Noah yesterday, because a lot of smart people believe in him and because I don’t want to see social outrage destroy his career over a fat joke, and I don’t want to see social justice warriors wielding that much power.
I hope that Noah gives us all something more impressive to judge him by in the near future, though. And I’m also thankful that Jon Stewart’s writers aren’t retiring as well.