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The line between funny and offensive is thin. Trevor Noah is on the wrong side.

Trevor Noah's got some explaining to do.
Trevor Noah's got some explaining to do.
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It was only a matter of time before people scraped through the Twitter feed of Trevor Noah, the comedian who will replace Jon Stewart as the host of The Daily Show. What they found — misogyny, fat-shaming, anti-Semitism, and a large dose of homophobia — is upsetting.

Many people have gone through Noah's Twitter feed, pulling out examples of offensive jokes he's made in the past. Here are a few of them. Many are from 2012 or before, but one is as recent as last summer:

In these tweets, Noah is consistently shaming three groups of people: Jews, women, and LGBT people.

A Daily Show host should be held to a higher standard than other comedians

Trevor Noah is a good comedian. His standup routines are funny, and his timing makes it seem like he'll be a good fit to take over The Daily Show.

Still, these jokes are offensive because they are reflections of cultures that are oppressive and privileged — and rather than being critical of those societal constructions, the jokes instead reinforce them. The jokes imply that it is acceptable — funny, even — to belittle gay, heavy, or Jewish people.

Now, of course, Noah is not the first comedian to make jokes at the expense of vulnerable people. Roxane Gay, author of Bad Feminist, tweeted in response to the Noah tweets: "I'm not saying his old tweets are ok but I hope you are crawling through the tweets of a range of comedians. The results will be interesting."

She's right. Daniel Tosh and Dane Cook still perform despite the fact that both consistently make much more offensive jokes at the expense of women, people of color, and pretty much all non-straight white men. Some people even like those performances! They laugh! Hell, Bill Cosby has performed standup routines in which he makes jokes about horrible crimes he's been accused of by more than a dozen women.

But here's what makes Noah's situation different: his new platform as the host of The Daily Show. He's not a standup comedian anymore. He's about to step into a job that discusses high-profile political and social issues. Noah needs to be trusted to be able to do that in a way that is smart and fair and certainly not bigoted. As Jamie Weinstein wrote for the Daily Caller, "Many young people don't watch ‘The Daily Show' just to laugh — they watch the show to get their news. The show shapes perceptions."

If Trevor Noah wants to be the next Jon Stewart, he certainly can't do it like this.


Correction: An earlier version of this post said that Noah is not part of any of the groups he makes fun of in his tweets. In fact, he told Australia's Herald Sun that his mother is half-Jewish. We regret the error.