Salon published a spot on critique of The Daily Show’s new host, Trevor Noah, written by Matt Carotenuto. The article, “Trevor Noah schools racists: “The Daily Show” has an essential new mission and comic voice” should not be taken lightly by any reader. Carotenuto explains the relevance of one who is African and in a power-filled American position. Noah has the ability to have a far-reaching impact on our culture with his comedic voice.
Noah, a South African native, now holds one of the most powerful seats – American main media. He cued his audience in the video advertisement previous to his first show. Social media posted various comments to this video, but the actual symbolism seemed to be lost on the average viewer.
Trevor Noah’s first week as host of the Daily Show showed the promise of someone who will educate America, not only about Africa – but about who we are as Americans beyond the punchlines. I pictured some avid Daily Show viewer in their living room shouting, “Who does he think he is?” This was most evident in Noah’s interview with Governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie.
In Daily Show style, Noah began to interview Christie about the politics of his state. Christie tried the “Be careful, I can get to you Black Boy,” inference only to be met with the “Annndd???” gaze. So Noah is the man to maintain his static professionalism and self-awareness in the face of what we in America denote as White Privilege and political might, characteristics he might pass on to the American viewer.
As a Daily Show correspondent, Noah’s brief segments on Africa were palatable only because those who were not culturally educated could yawn their way through it. As the host, Noah sits center stage formulating material for a culture starved and resistant American audience as well as the culturally aware. This tight high profile comedic balance was first achieved by Bert Williams in the early 1900’s, where Williams’ crafty monologues and scenes with his partner George Walker spoke to white and black audiences simultaneous and apart. It was said that at some shows, it was noticeable that whites would roar with laughter in some instances, while Blacks at others; each drawing their own coded messages from the verse. Noah would be smart to study this design.
In reading this article, I found a kindred spirit in Matt Carotenuto. We will both sit on the edge of our seats each night pulling threads, shaking our fist, and hopefully formulating more articles – Noah worthy.
As a teacher/scholar of African studies, I was delighted when South African Trevor Noah was announced as the replacement for Jon Stewart. Drawing from his complex mixed-race heritage and experience growing up in apartheid era South Africa, Noah is a great candidate to critique America’s single stereotypical story of Africa as a place of merely violence, disease and poverty.