Why Comedy Central Is Standing by Trevor Noah


As the furor over Trevor Noah’s Twitter history reached its fever pitch level Tuesday, Comedy Central released a statement to The New York Times’ Dave Itzoff — who broke the news of Noah’s ascension to Jon Stewart‘s Daily Show throne on Monday — that put forward an unwavering defense of the 31-year-old South African comedian’s place at the network:

For Comedy Central, the home of South Park and Tosh.0, this reaction should surprise no one. Just because Noah has tweeted a variety of unformed — and mostly unfunny — tweets aimed at Israel, overweight women, gays and more over the last several years does not mean that he doesn’t have what it takes to carry The Daily Show torch and move the iconic show in a new and exciting direction.

Among the reactions to Noah’s tweets last night was this observation from conservative pundit David Frum, who suggested that Comedy Central was unaware of Noah’s Twitter material:

But that just doesn’t make any sense. While Stewart has never embraced the medium, Noah is a Twitter machine, amassing more than 2 million followers while remaining almost complete unknown in the United States. That is the kind of social media reach that helps comedians and actors land gigs in our current media climate and Comedy Central is definitely looking to take advantage of those fans when he replaces Stewart later this year.

It’s also why there’s no way Noah is going to suddenly delete his account, as some have predicted. While he has stayed silent on Tuesday, aside from a quickly deleted message that vaguely acknowledged his critics, you can expect Noah to get back on the Twitter horse soon.

As they showed during the #CancelColbert firestorm of 2014, Comedy Central stands by their talent, whether they are veterans like Stephen Colbert or future stars like Trevor Noah.

There has been much speculation about the timing of Comedy Central’s announcement and this controversy just might give us a window into their mysterious thought process. Perhaps, the network saw this inevitable outrage coming. After all, they saw what happened to former Daily Show correspondent Michael Che when he took on Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update.

Nearly any comedian worth hiring is going to have some dicey material in his or her past. Sometimes, it’s best to get the craziness out of the way early and hope it blows over by showtime. For better or worse, there are a LOT of people talking about Trevor Noah today, and that has to have some positive effect on his previously low profile.

Part of the reason why so many people, and especially those on the left, are reacting so viscerally to the worst of Noah’s comedy is that they hold the man he’s replacing in such high regard. The Daily Show isn’t just any late night show, it’s where more and more young people get their news. There’s a reason why Stewart once beat out all the network evening news anchors in a “most trusted” newsman poll.

It’s going to take a lot for Noah to reach that level of trust and a trip down Twitter’s memory lane was not the best start. But as he demonstrated in his handful of appearances on The Daily Show and in his more recent stand-up material, he has the ability to bring something special to a platform that even Stewart’s biggest fans can admit has grown a little stale of late.

Stewart and Comedy Central clearly see Noah as the future. Now, they just have to hope viewers don’t spend too much time dwelling on his past.

[Photo via Twitter]

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