Should We Be Upset By Trevor Noah’s Controversial Tweets?

Trevor Noah is in hot water over a few not-so-hot tweets. The South African comic came under fire after Comedy Central announced he would replace Jon Stewart as host of The Daily Show. His offense: tweets that targeted Jews and women. What are your reactions to his posts? (Spoiler alert: fat chicks, Jewish chicks, and tight asses—be prepared to bristle. Proceed with caution.)
“'Oh yeah the weekend. People are gonna get drunk & think that I'm sexy!' - fat chicks everywhere”
“Messi gets the ball and the real players try foul him, but Messi doesn't go down easy, just like Jewish chicks. #ElClasico”
“Almost bumped a Jewish kid crossing the road. He didn't look b4 crossing but I still would have felt so bad in my German car!”
I understand that when it comes to mass tweeting, they can't all be gems. And tweeting while drinking might be more hazardous than driving under the influence. Jeb Bush’s tech officer Ethan Czahor resigned (aka got fired) after people went through his backlog of tweets and found he had referred to women as “sluts” and also made derogatory remarks about gay men.
(BTW—at this point, how many of you are now mass deleting your drunken-attempt-at-humor tweets?)
But, should comics be held accountable when they push the edge of appropriateness? After all, we comics don’t have a HR department lording over us.
There was a time when nothing was off limits and comedy clubs were rampant expressions of homophobia and misogyny. Audiences now feel empowered to express themselves, as Jamie Foxx discovered at the iHeartRadio Music Awards when his opening monologue was booed. He’d gone after Bruce Jenner, who has been pictured everywhere as he is transitioning into a woman.
“We have some groundbreaking performances here, too, tonight. We got Bruce Jenner, who will be here doing some musical performances. He’s doing a his-and-her duet all by himself.”
“Look,” he added. “I’m just busting your balls while I still can.” – Jamie Foxx
Comedy is NOT about alienation, shock, or hatred. It’s supposed to be about laughter. And there is a basic rule to comedy—don’t tell jokes that further oppress people. So, a straight black male cannot make the other gender the butt of his jokes. Unless, of course, he reveals how ONE woman did him wrong and deserves ridiculing. The message is clear—joke fairly.
Richard Pryor broke the comedy race barrier joking about racism. One of his tamer jokes is:
“I woke up in an ambulance. And it wasn’t nothing but white people staring at me. I said, ‘Ain’t this a bitch. I done died and wound up in the wrong muthafucking heaven.’”
He could say that because he was black. Taking a dig at your own kind is not a punishable offense, especially in comedy clubs. If Jamie Foxx identified as transgender, the audience probably would have laughed. He would have been taking a dig at himself. Note to Jamie: not too late.
Noah committed the same offense by taking cheap shots. He doesn't fall into any of those targeted categories. American audiences are balking that he’s taking over our coolest show. We want to trust the new host and believe he speaks for us.
Note to all late night talk show hosts: knock off the misogyny! Honor the legacy of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, who made us laugh like crazy without offending women, Jews, or gays.
What do you think? Have you written some tweets that might get you into some hot water in a few years? I’m taking a poll—is it OK or not OK to laugh at this material?
Let me know in your comments.

1 comment:

  1. Judy,
    yup. I agree with you. These jokes are harmful. They show contempt for certain groups of people. They normalize and reinforce crummy attitudes and justify prejudice. And there's a growing body of scientific research to prove it. Check out this great article on the science behind the topic and how our brains work when in humour mode (and how rape jokes do hurt). https://rajsivaraman.wordpress.com/2013/06/05/a-scientific-case-against-rape-jokes/

    To your list of ok jokes to make, I'd add it's also fair for the oppressed to make jokes about their oppressors, as in subversive comedy. That goes for people making jokes about those in power, and politics (clowns keeping abuse of power in check). And jokes about society in general - as in satire meant to better society.

    I'm saddened that these prejudices and beliefs still exist in our society.
    I'm sad that some comics don't see that their jokes (and therefore their personal beliefs) are sexist, racist, or bigoted.
    And now I'm sad that comics like these are given a bigger soapbox to stand on. That means the people who chose him must have these attitudes, too. Argh. So now these awful ideas will be spread.

    Let's keep calling out these jokes. As stated in the article above "it has been shown that when people are made aware that jokes are prejudiced, they are less likely to accept the prejudiced viewpoints." Especially if we can do it with humour.


Judy's Blog

Judy Carter blogs on comedy, storytelling and public speaking techniques, using personal stories and her adventures as a stand-up comic turned motivational public speaker. Her weekly blogs are read by fans of her books, “The Comedy Bible” (Simon and Schuster) and “The Message of You” (St. Martin’s Press), which include comics, speakers, and entrepreneurs. She is also known for teaching the value of humor and storytelling to businesses as a leadership and stress reduction tool.