Trevor Noah's Bigoted Jokes Come Back To Haunt Him

Photo: Byron L Keulemans/GQ South Africa.

Trevor Noah is having a fantastic week. Yesterday, he was announced as Jon Stewart's successor on The Daily Show, a move that incited resounding cheers across the media. In recent years, Noah gained a significant following both for his stand-up comedy and his one man show, "Born A Crime," which chronicled his life as a a mixed-race child growing up in South Africa. No doubt, his is a vital and talented voice on the scene — but he hasn't always used it for sharp, intelligent commentary. In fact, like many comics, he's made his share of terrible jokes. Unfortunately for him, he made a lot of them on Twitter.

"Happy Women's Day ladies. Hope you all have a great day. Even you Caster," Noah tweeted last August, regarding Caster Semenya, the South African runner who was forced to undergo genetic testing regarding her gender after winning the gold medal in the 2009 World Championship. Fans rebuked him for the tweet and Noah simply replied: "I joke about everything."

Noah's tweets run the gamut from questionable to blatantly homophobic, transphobic, misogynist, anti-Semitic, and good old fat-girl jokes.

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Pretty classy stuff, especially from a man who's spoken openly about the domestic violence his own mother suffered. Of course, Trevor Noah is by no means the first comic in history to make deeply offensive comments in the context of humor and shrug it off. Gilbert Gottfried lost his job as an Aflac spokesperson for tweeting tsunami jokes just days after the 2011 tragedy in Japan.

Given Trevor Noah's new high-profile position, he'll likely have to make a statement at some point, but given his historical response of sorry-not-sorry to those he hurt or offended, we shouldn't expect much in the way of remorse. Perhaps that's the way it should be — because there's nothing worse than phony contrition.

Trevor Noah is the new star of The Daily Show and an impassioned performer and perhaps a cocky, prejudicial jerk. Maybe it's time for us, as viewers, to recognize these flawed celebrities before turning them into false idols. Maybe it's also time for those celebrities to recognize those flaws within themselves — and own it — before the angry mob comes after them. 

For their part, Comedy Central stands by Noah, stating: "To judge him or his comedy based on a handful of jokes is unfair," and it's true that these tweets absolutely shouldn't discount the whole of his career — and they almost certainly won't. That doesn't mean they get brushed under the rug. Trevor Noah just got a huge opportunity and a lot of attention to go along with that. Let's see what he does with it.

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