Film and TV

(Trevor) Noah And The Flood (Of Twitter Backlash)

Well, that had to be the shortest honeymoon in history:

Within hours of the announcement that he had been named the new host of "The Daily Show," the comedian Trevor Noah was subjected to the full scrutiny of the Internet. As potential audience members scoured his past work and his social media for more clues about the South African comedian, they uncovered many posts on his Twitter account that they deemed to be offensive to women or Jews.

While I've enjoyed Noah's appearances on TDS, there's a crippling lack of self-awareness on display here. The *nanosecond* he entered negotiations for the job he should have gone back over his social media accounts and nuked anything like this from orbit. It's not like there haven't been canaries in that particular coal mine for years.

Defenders argue these were throwaway tweets Noah made years ago. In one respect, they may be right. One of the central arguments against getting a Twitter account is because some of us have a tendency to fire off half-baked thoughts (and some of us are just dumb). On the other hand, there's a tremendous amount of personal growth that takes place between the ages of 27 and 31, Noah's age when he posted these tweets. *cough*

I'm going to demonstrate to Noah how we've all done things we regret, but first, more from the New York Times:

Tom Gara, the editor of BuzzFeed's business news site, wrote on his Twitter account, "The most depressing thing about Trevor Noah's Twitter timeline, other than how bad he is at Twitter, is how often he replies to @UberFacts."

You know, when the home of articles like "Which Ousted Arab Spring Ruler Are You?" criticizes your sources, you have suffered the sickest of burns.

Whether this costs him the Daily Show gig remains to be seen (Comedy Central is standing behind him, for now). In the meantime, and just to let him know he's not alone, I've decided to offer up some examples of my own poor choices from three and four years ago.

March 17, 2012 Admitted that the Irish branch of my family actually originated in France.

February 5, 2012: Took the New England Patriots and the 2.5-point spread in Super Bowl XLVI.

November 6, 2011: Posted a picture on Facebook confirming my attendance at a Taylor Swift concert.

September 11, 2011: Commemorated the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks by drinking a six-pack of red, white, and blue Miller High Life tall boys.

June 27, 2011: In a possibly drunken state, declared that the Spice Girls are one of my favorite bands of all time (note: this has been asserted soberly, and much more recently than 2011).

We give Millennials (Noah qualifies, he was born in 1984) a lot of shit for their alleged narcissism and sense of entitlement, much of which is earned. Still, as the first generation to really grow up in the online era, a certain amount of slack should be cut when they screw up by accidentally posting keg stand photos to their kids' elementary school FB group or tweet about their recent bowel movement to the corporate account they manage instead of their personal followers.

And in Noah's defense, it can take a comedian a long time to establish their identity. Patton Oswalt talks about the decades working 'basket of mozzarella sticks' clubs in Silver Screen Fiend and elsewhere, while imminent Late Show host Stephen Colbert bounced around TV for years before landing on The Daily Show.

Then again, I'm reasonably sure neither got by on one-liners about the mythic nature of white women with big butts.

His appearances as a correspondent aside, the "jokes" Noah made -- if we must call them that -- simply aren't very good. "Fat chicks?" German car vs Jewish pedestrian? Will we be seeing the flapping dickey behind the desk when he takes over for Jon Stewart?

In comedy, there's a fine line between cutting edge and career limiting, with even beloved practitioners like Louis CK stumbling into Daniel Tosh territory from time to time. Noah won't get any slack for his unfortunate tweets (and tipping people to your possible latent anti-Semitism never helps), not just because they were painfully unfunny, but because nobody over here really knows who the hell he is. Three appearances on TDS? Why didn't they go with Jessica Williams again?

This is all also part of a larger pattern, one in which comedy not designed for the broadest possible consumption is immediately put under the microscope. I can't remember if it was Oswalt or Kyle Kinane or someone else, but they more or less said this constant scrutiny and immediate assumption of offense is a big reason stand-up comedians rarely play college campuses these days.

In another 10 years, the thin veneer of privacy we enjoy by noodling with our social media settings will be more of a cruel joke than it already is, and the sheer tonnage of objectionable behavior on display online will be too overwhelming for even the insatiable Ouroboros of Internet Outrage to consume. At that point, the cursory Google search your prospective employer does will only be remarkable if you *don't* have at least three shots of you passed out with a dick drawn on your face. Until then, it lurks in preparation for the next poor dumb bastard whose internal filter has been eroded by complacency or a few beers. Sorry, Millennials.

On the plus side, you'll be able to tell the next generation how "back in your day" not everyone had "goatse" as their desktop wallpaper.

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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar