Turns out comedians -- even seemingly charming, well-dressed ones from South Africa -- say some nasty, mean-spirited things in the quest for laughter. Folks on the right and left are in a tizzy over tweets penned by Trevor Noah, the heir apparent to Jon Stewart as host of Comedy Central's "The Daily Show." Per Bloomberg:
The tweets, targeting women, Jews and Israel, have triggered an outcry from people who mined Noah's social-media posts to find out more about the 31-year-old, biracial comedian who is little known in the U.S.
The left is upset about the women jokes. The middle is upset about the anti-Semitic jokes. (The left is totally cool with the Israel jokes, though.)
Mr. Noah is a comedian of questionable taste and talent. But is he saying anything worse than what's been said by Joan Rivers, Kevin Hart, Stephen Colbert or his eminence Jon Stewart? Hardly.
What separates Mr. Noah from those others (aside from age and nationality)? One, his most outrageous jokes were delivered on Twitter, so they stick around. Two, people are treating the hosting gig on "The Daily Show" as if it's akin to university president or pope.
Even The New York Times felt the need to whip out a thumb to suck on this bit of analysis:
Still, the controversy over Mr. Noah's tweets poses a challenge for Comedy Central and its prestige late-night comedy show. And it raises the question of why his Twitter account was not more carefully vetted before he was named host of 'The Daily Show,' a late-night show with a worldwide audience of fans as well as detractors.
No. It neither poses a challenge nor raises a question. It's Comedy Central. The network had Martha Stewart on last night working blue -- and borderline racist -- as part of the Justin Bieber roast. With "South Park," it runs one of the only shows in the U.S. that makes consistent and vicious fun of all religions (and taught us that boycotts don't work, but death threats do).
In other words, its execs know full well that they're hiring for a late-night comedy host, not screening for Secretary of State. It's not even a job equivalent to national news anchor, which is already a pretty low bar. It's reading the news on TV and making funny. It's a job once held by Craig Kilborn.
Vetting the Twitter account of comedians, meanwhile, would leave the network with exactly zero candidates.
That doesn't excuse any actual racism or anti-Semitism Mr. Noah might exhibit. Not by a long shot. If there's a file on him, show us the goods. But if he's working somewhere in the vast spaces between Larry The Cable Guy and Sarah Silverman (and Jon Stewart gave his blessing), then maybe everyone should have a Coke and a smile and shut the hell up.
All of that said, I predict Mr. Noah will apologize for his remarks within the next 48 hours.
Ken Wheaton, the managing editor of Advertising Age, writes our Last Word column. His latest novel, "Sweet as Cane, Salty as Tears," was published in 2014.