Trevor Noah on Tackling Divisive Topics: ‘If We Can’t Have the Conversation, Who Can?’
“The Daily Show with Trevor Noah” has gained a reputation for addressing sensitive political topics and then incorporating those discussions with elements of comedy. Noah compared this to “juggling little bombs” that could explode any moment, but believes he has a responsibility to talk about the topics that others are afraid to approach.
“If we’re afraid to have this conversation, how much more afraid are people on the streets?,” Noah asked during an FYC conversation with Arsenio Hall. “People in an office, people in a school? They’re terrified of having this conversation. They’re thinking like, ‘Do we get fired? Do we get slandered? Do we get beaten up? So if we can’t have the conversation, then who can?”
As part of Comedy Central’s Emmy campaign for “The Daily Show,” Hall sat down with Noah to discuss his career as a talk show host, giving people around him an equal chance and how Dave Chappelle helped him find his voice. One of Hall’s questions for Noah was how he deals with online criticism. Noah admitted that he’s thin-skinned but tends to heal quickly.
“A lot of the time what people say to me affects me,” Noah said. “It’ll hurt my feelings, especially when I feel like people don’t give me a fair shot ‘cause I feel like I give people a fair shot, you know? I’ve had Republicans on my show and I’m not just slinging things at them, I’m not just cussing them out. No, I’ll talk to anyone, I’ll give anybody a fair shot.”
Noah says this ethos extends to his team on “Daily Show.” The staff “comprises of everyone,” and by everyone, that includes Republicans. While Noah said this tends to shock many people, he wants to have honest conversations with people on both ends of the political spectrum.
“I don’t want to live in a bubble of not knowing what anyone thinks,” Noah said. “I also don’t want to live in a world where I cannot disagree with somebody who I still see as a human being and even as a friend.”
Hall said that Noah is “caught between a rock and hard place” as an African host who was not born in America. Noah responded by pointing out that “Black people are Black people“ and have endured one shared experience since birth.
“As broad as Black people are, unfortunately, there was one experience that has connected Black people and that has been oppression,” Noah said. “I might not be from Philly … but when we talk about police, we all talk the same language. When you’re Black, race is always at the front. You don’t get to opt out.”
Noah said Chappelle played a major role in helping him find his voice. The revered comedian once told Noah “that you must never take for granted is what you have to say. Anybody can be funny, anyone can tell a joke, but not everyone has something to say. I want you to not run away from what you have to say. I know it’s scary, but don’t run away from it.”
Hall reminded Noah that “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah” received six Emmy nominations in 2020, tying the show’s record for most nominations since 2014, the last full year that Jon Stewart was at the anchor desk. While Noah said he appreciates these accolades and never takes them for granted, he doesn’t forget “the meaningful nature of who your creating the show for” — the viewers at home.
After Noah’s final “socially distanced” production airs on Thursday, “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah” will go on a summer hiatus and return to Comedy Central on Sept. 13. Teasing a “brand new look and feel,” Noah said he has a “few surprises” in store for when he and his team finally return to the studio.
“As for going back to the studio, I have a few surprises as to what that will look like,” Noah said. “I’m working on a few things with the team, and we’re really excited because I want it to be intentional. People always say, ‘When are you going back?’ I’m never going back, I’m only moving forward.”
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