Trevor Noah causes outrage on Twitter, not always a comedian's best friend
'Comedians can slip up and have a bad day. People will find a way to be offended,' Aisha Alfa tells CBC
Following soon-to-be Daily Show host Trevor Noah's Twitter fallout, he may want to take some advice from these tweet-savvy Canadians, who know what it's like to be a comedian on social media.
Noah was relatively unknown until Comedy Central announced he would take over for Jon Stewart, who is stepping down as Daily Show host later this year. After the news broke, people began crawling through his past, and he was raked over the coals after a handful of his old tweets that weren't funny surfaced.
In fact, they were called anti-Semitic and hateful towards women.
Here are a few examples:
Originally when men proposed they went down on one knee so if the woman said no they were in the perfect uppercut position.—@Trevornoah
Behind every successful Rap Billionaire is a double as rich Jewish man. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/BeatsByDreidel?src=hash">#BeatsByDreidel</a>—@Trevornoah
"Oh yeah the weekend. People are gonna get drunk & think that I'm sexy!" - fat chicks everywhere.—@Trevornoah
Some comedians fiercely defended Noah and attacked his detractors. American comedian Patton Oswalt posted a 53-tweet rampage.
"The guy made some off colour, irresponsible tweets. He was trying to be funny," said Daily Show correspondent Aasif Mandvi. "How much are we responsible for the things we said on Twitter five or 10 years ago? I don't know."
But, in addition to being off-colour, the jokes were comically lazy, say some comedians in Canada who expect more from someone filling Stewart's shoes. Daily Show fans are mourning the end of his 16-year run behind the desk.
"Whoever stepped up was sure to get knocked down a few pegs," says comedian Stephen Eyes, host of Eyes on Comedy bar (in Toronto this weekend, for those looking for comedy without a character limit). "They just weren't funny – the kind of 'jokes' that need to be challenged.
"Jon Stewart was just the kind of man to lampoon these very thoughts, but this time they were coming from the future host. So who fights the good fight now?"
Trevor Noah isn't lazy; his tweets are
"You shouldn't try to be edgy or clean, you should try to be funny. Edgy to be edgy is really easy. It's one of those things where it's like a 7-year-old can be edgy," says comedian Nile Seguin, who you can catch performing in Toronto.
So <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Gmail?src=hash">#Gmail</a> doesn't recognize homophobe as a word. I think my email service is closeted. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/sosad?src=hash">#sosad</a>—@nileseguin
Seguin says that by taking Noah to task for using cheap jokes, he "comes off looking like some ultra-uptight person who is against free expression and anything edgy, when in fact I'm actually just against lazy writing and bad jokes."
Twitter can be a place to try out jokes ....
"The people with the most success with Twitter are the most brazen, but also on point," says Nick Flanagan, a member of comedy collective Laugh Sabbath and the comic behind the album I'm Here All Weak. "It's a form of writing. It can be your first step in trying a joke out."
... But they lose their tone
"If you're reading something online you're deciding the voice you're reading it in," Flanagan said. "For me, it's a self imposed pressure to Tweet. It's generally a bad idea," he said, referring to how jokes can be received online.
I notice a lot of people backing away from me since I tweeted all that far-left political stuff, and stopped using deoderant.—@theflans
"If you say race in a joke people shut down and say it's not funny," says comedian Aisha Alfa, performing Saturday in Toronto and at the upcoming Winnipeg Comedy Festival. "People don't think about other ways he [Noah] may have meant things.
"On Twitter and Facebook you are reading it with no tone, no background and it can be read the wrong way. Comedians can slip up and have a bad day. People will find a way to be offended. You can't judge people on four tweets."
<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Technology?src=hash">#Technology</a> through the ages! <a href="http://t.co/LTc5LPJWVe">pic.twitter.com/LTc5LPJWVe</a>—@aishaalfa
Just like comedians, comedy can grow up
"Something you said a long time ago, you're not the same person that you were five years ago," said Seguin. "Thank God I wasn't on Twitter five years ago."
Comedian Ariel Kagan, like Trevor Noah, is from South Africa. Kagan lives and performs in Toronto. He says Noah has worked so fiercely to get where he is that it is sad to see him reduced to a few bad tweets.
If anyone wants to photoshop my face on to <a href="https://twitter.com/Trevornoah">@Trevornoah</a> I'd be ok with it! They do say all us South Africans look the same.—@arielkagan
Kagan calls Noah "an icon who all South Africans are immensely proud of. So for me, it's difficult to see him being questioned so hard because I know how hard he has worked."
According to Stephen Eyes, while Noah may have a lot of work to do to reach Jon Stewart's calibre, there are things in most comedians' past that they aren't proud of.
"People grow and a sense of humour hopefully with it," he says.