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Bjorn Against

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Member since: Mon May 22, 2006, 06:07 PM
Number of posts: 12,041

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Why I am standing by Trevor Noah despite his offensive Tweets

Comedy is often filled with offensive material, I don't know that there is a big name comedian out there who is both funny and consistently inoffensive. People have every right to be offended by certain types of humor and I don't think that we should be telling the people that are offended that they need to learn to take a joke. I am not here to defend Trevor Noah's tweets, some people are clearly offended by them and they have every right to be offended. What I am here to do however is to ask people to consider that we should not judge a comedian on the basis of a few bad jokes that were dug up by the media, instead we should look at that comedian's body of work in context and try to get an understanding of who the person really is.

Like most Americans I am just getting to learn about Trevor Noah, prior to yesterday I had only seen one of his segments on the Daily Show. Once I heard he had been selected as the new host I watched a few YouTube videos from him as well as a one hour stand up show that is currently streaming on Netflix. I watched his stand up before I saw the tweets and I am glad I did so because his stage act is far funnier and more insightful than anything you are going to find on a Twitter feed.

I encourage everyone to watch this video as it gives us a much better understanding of who Noah actually is than those Tweets do. This a man who grew up as a mixed race child in apartheid South Africa. Interracial relationships were illegal there at the time so he could never be seen with both parents in public, this is a guy who truly understands what it is like to face oppression. While he is able to joke about the horrors he faced living under apartheid it is also clear that behind his laughter is a guy who realizes that bigotry is deadly serious. In many ways that makes him the perfect host for the Daily Show, this is a show that makes jokes out of the worst things that are taking place in our society without trivializing the wrong doing.

It is easy to look at the tweets that have been dug out from Noah's Twitter account and think they represent his viewpoints, but I would caution against leaping to such a judgment without first becoming familiar with his particular brand of humor. Clearly the jokes in his tweets were unfunny and offensive, but every comedian has jokes that fail and those jokes often fail in ways that really get people upset. I know there were a few times in which I thought Jon Stewart really failed in his attempts at humor, but I can't judge him solely on the basis of the failed jokes he told.

I have heard many people say that these Tweets reinforce their opinion that Tina Fey should have gotten the job, and I will be the first to say that Tina Fey would have made a great host despite the fact that she is also facing accusations of bigotry right now. Yes, you read that right, Tina Fey is right now battling accusations of racism herself. There is a new show on Netflix called "The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" which was written largely by Tina Fey and it is facing a lot of criticism for the racial stereotypes in the show. I just saw the first couple of episodes of the series and it is an incredibly funny show, but I can definitely see why some people might find it offensive. This is a comedy about a woman who kidnapped at age 13 and held prisoner for fifteen years by a cult leader who repeatedly raped her, when she escapes captivity she goes to live in New York with a flamboyant gay black man and then finds an Asian boyfriend named Dong. Just by reading that premise it should be clear that this show is going to spark some controversy. The show has received a great deal of critical acclaim and I am sure many people from the groups being stereotyped in the show will love it despite those offensive stereotypes, but there have been a number of people who have been very offended by Fey's writing. Those people are not wrong to be offended, but at the same time I am not going to pick out the offensive jokes that Tina Fey has made and pretend those jokes are representative of her work as a whole.

Al Franken has gone far beyond anything that either Trevor Noah or Tina Fey has said, while he was a writer for Saturday Night Live he made a joke about drugging and then raping Leslie Stahl. There was nothing funny about the joke at all, what he said was absolutely sick and disturbing. My mother and sister actually refused to vote for Franken in his first run for Senate because they were so offended by him. I tried to convince them that Franken should not be judged on the basis of a bad joke he told as a comedian, but they are still upset about that bad joke to this day. I believe that they did both vote for Franken the second time around as they are both quite liberal, but they still have not totally forgiven him for his bad joke and I can understand where they are coming from.

I can also understand where Noah's critics are coming from, but just like I felt Franken should not be judged on the basis of a bad joke I don't think Noah should either. All comedians who tackle controversial issues screw up some times and say things that they really should not say, but I think we do need to be somewhat forgiving and understand that we should not judge people on the worst things they have ever said. I know I have said some things that were pretty offensive in the past when I was trying to be funny and I would not want people to judge who I am as a person based on failed jokes that I have made, I think Trevor Noah deserves the opportunity to move on from his bad jokes as well.
Posted by Bjorn Against | Tue Mar 31, 2015, 06:50 PM (11 replies)
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