Why Trevor Noah Can Succeed On The Daily Show

Trevor_Noah_Cropped_website

I watched Tevor Noah’s comedy special African American on Netflix two nights ago.  I was curious after I saw he was set to take over for Jon Stewart on The Daily Show.  Instead of listening to all of the opinions on the internet I thought I’d just make up my mind for myself.  I suggest you do the same.  However, if you want some kind of opinion, at least based on that special, and his brief stint that I saw on The Daily Show, I think the show will be in good hands.  It’s clear that Noah is ridiculously intelligent.  He also is also able to be harshly critical of political issues in a clear way that points out the absurdity of the issue, while maintaining a smile.  Even when you get the sense his humor is informed by some injustice that makes him angry, he seems able to deliver it in a way that is inclusive.

I was a little unsure of him at the start of his special.  The special starts out with a fish out of water comedy as Noah describes some differences between his home country of South Africa and his adopted home in the United States.  It seemed kind of like Yakov Smirnoff, even if the observations were sharper and more biting.  However, he quickly gained momentum and I got the sense that here is someone that is really able to cut through the bullshit of the world.  At one point in the special he mentioned that he knows four languages and he is learning other ones.  He was also able to imitate almost any accent from any region or country.  He has an ear for language and the absurdity built into the way humans communicate.

He also seemed like a great comedian for this time period.  We are economically and socially more a part of the world than we have ever been, yet so many Americans know nothing of the world, and even rarely understand correctly what they do know.  His insider/outsider status, his mixed race heritage, allows him to translate how different sides view each other.  He seems to both love the US and be terrified of its power at the same time.

I have traveled, by sheer luck, a good deal.  People outside of the US often want the best of our country, but are often terrified by some of our behavior.   And I am talking about friends and allies.  We often don’t understand this, but Noah gets this dynamic dead on.

Whether in his home country, while traveling abroad, or here in the US, Noah gets the absurdity of modern life.  His bit on US airports had me in stitches, because is was so correct in observations about it.  He was able to point out how ridiculous it is that we take our shoes off in airports.  However, if you think he is just US bashing, he is no less critical of other cultures.  He then told a story about a US woman taking off her shoes when entering a Muslim country.  The Muslims began freaking out because they are so afraid of women exposing any part of their bodies.  I’m not doing the piece justice, obviously.  But it was his ability to critique absurdity in the US and at the last moment twist it around, to show that he is well aware that we are not the most insane country on certain issues.

Two of my favorite comedians are Bill Maher and George Carlin.  Maher, even though he treats his right wing guests with respect, is simply too biting in his comedy to ever be listened to by many that don’t share his politics.  Carlin is my all-time favorite comedian, philosopher as much as comedian, but his public persona was one that was someone who was really irritated by what he saw in the world.  I could watch him every night, but I wonder how many could.

Despite his biting comedy, and in standup I much prefer the other two, especially Carlin, Noah again is able to deliver this comedy with a good natured charm.  I imagine him being someone that people would welcome into their home every night, even when he is challenging their worldview.  I think for this reason he is a good choice.  He can speak truth to power in a way that just might knock a few people off of the fence.

If our news media wasn’t so bad I wouldn’t hope for so much from a comedian.  But Stewart has communicated more information than any of the real TV news outlets.  He has big shoes to fill.  I think, though only time will tell, that Noah is up for the job.  But don’t trust me, check him out yourself.

Jon Stewart to Retire

I only just found out about Jon Stewart’s decisions to retire from The Daily Show tonight.  I realize many of you have probably already heard about this.  I don’t need to be the one to tell most of you that we have been lucky to have him on television since 1999.  The Daily Show has been a place we could go to laugh and remain sane in these years of insanity.  Not only is his own contribution tremendous, but without him we would have never had The Colbert Report.  I have only seen one episode of The Nightly Show, but hopefully that and whoever takes Stewart’s spot will keep this kind of truth telling comedy going.

I think the most important thing Stewart is done is helped people decode the bullshit that is cable news.  It’s true that many people before Stewart knew that something in our media wasn’t right, but sometimes it helps to have someone that can adequately verbalize what you feel.  Night after night he was not only able punch through the mask of talking head absurdity, but provide people with the tools to do it themselves.

Why is it that, so often in our society, comedians are the only ones that can get at the truth?  If we had a mainstream news media that was actually doing its job, Stewart wouldn’t have been needed.  However, many of us unfortunately know that he, or someone like him, was needed.   Because he could do what he did through humor, he was able to get away with things that others could not.  One of my favorite quotes, that I have probably used too frequently here is Oscar Wilde’s quote, “If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they’ll kill you.”

Hopefully there will come a time when someone like Stewart isn’t needed, when we can actually trust television media to give us an accurate picture of what is going on in the world.  I don’t think that time will be soon though.  In the meantime, lets be glad that he was able to slip unnoticed through the gates, in this kingdom of madness.

Above is Jon Stewart’s famous Crossfire appearance.  Crossfire was a show on CNN.  It was a typical cable news program where you would have one rightwing pundit and one leftwing pundit debating the issues, without any kind of real insight give.  There also was no weight given to either argument, letting the viewer know if one or both were at all rooted in fact.  Jon Stewart went on and at the time did the unthinkable: He told the truth about why this kind of show was so meaningless.  Crossfire didn’t last much longer.  

Chris Rock Discusses Top Five On The Daily Show

Here is Chris Rock on The Daily Show discussing his new movie Top Five.  My brother and I went to see it the other night and it was excellent.  It was really unique in its particular blend of different genres and emotions in one film.  It was funny, as is to be expected, but it is also poignant and romantic in ways that seemed genuine.  When something happened to the characters emotionally, it felt earned because of the great character development of the film.  Chris Rock himself has said that Woody Allen was an influence.  It felt like an indie drama crossed with a very funny and raunchy comedy.  Again, it was unique and even this description does not really get to the core of it.  The movie not only had me laughing, but also left me thinking ever since I have seen it.

Lewis Black On Fox News and Black Friday

Lewis Black On Fox News and Black Friday

The above clip of Lewis Black on Black Friday exposes the absurdity of Fox News.  Apparently Fox News is coming down hard on workers that want off on Thanksgiving, but not on corporate stores that are forced to be open…

One day I hope that those that support the Republican Party, who aren’t rich, will wake up and see how it in no way, shape, or form represents the average American.