That didn’t take long. The backlash against Trevor Noah, the 31-year-old South African comic who hit the career jackpot Monday when he was named to the coveted position of Comedy Central’s Daily Show host, replacing outgoing icon Jon Stewart, got well underway less than 24 hours after Noah’s hire became public.
But in fairness, Noah appears to have himself at least partly to blame for this backlash, after fans who combed through a series of “jokes” on Noah’s Twitter feed — some dating back to 2009 — uncovered several that appeared to reveal the young comedian’s attitudes toward Jews, as well as women.
The backlash over the allegedly anti-Semitic and sexist Twitter jokes appears ironic, given that the choice of Noah was widely hailed as welcome step toward diversity in late-night television, a medium dominated by middle-aged white men hosting, such as Jimmy Fallon, David Letterman and even Stewart himself.
Noah’s choice of ethnic humor seems especially strange, given that his own mother is, as he has described her, “a black South African who’s half Jewish.” His father is white and of European descent.
But many fans were shocked to see quips like this one populating Noah’s Twitter account…
Almost bumped a Jewish kid crossing the road. He didn’t look b4 crossing but I still would hav felt so bad in my german car!
— Trevor Noah (@Trevornoah) September 18, 2009
And this off-color remark, invoking an age-old, derogatory stereotype of Jewish women…
But Jewish women were not the only target of Noah’s attempts at humor. “Plus-size” women were also on the receiving end of his put-downs…
“Oh yeah the weekend. People are gonna get drunk & think that I’m sexy!” – fat chicks everywhere.
— Trevor Noah (@Trevornoah) October 14, 2011
The old Trevor Noah Twitter gags led to a backlash not only from fans, but in some instances from other comedians and entertainers…
— Ari David (@AriDavidUSA) March 31, 2015
Outgoing Daily Show host Jon Stewart, whose real name is Jonathan Leibowitz, is himself Jewish — and presumably Stewart was instrumental in selecting Noah as his successor because the 52-year-old Stewart is also the show’s producer.
But Stewart himself has faced accusations of insensitivity to ethnic and racial stereotyping. In an incident reported by Salon.com last year, writer Allison Kinney reported that she once attended a Daily Show taping that featured a warm-up comic — whose act was not broadcast — delivering a series of “racist and misogynist jokes… about greedy Jews, and Caribbean women spitting before they cross the street.”
But when she complained to Stewart himself about it, Kinney wrote, the Daily Show host “stared at me with palpable hostility.”
“Stewart’s face creased with annoyance. He said, shortly, loudly, glaring at me, ‘BECAUSE. IT’S. F*****G. FUNNY.’”
Stewart never commented publicly on the incident, nor has Stewart or Comedy Central yet commented on the backlash against the selection of Trevor Noah.
[Image: Getty Images Entertainment]