Trevor Noah Twitter controversy: Are his jokes daring or abusive?

A day after South African comedian Trevor Noah was named Jon Stewart's successor on 'The Daily Show,' critics have been citing jokes on his twitter feed that they see as bigoted.

Bongiwe Mchunu/The Star/AP/File
South African comedian Trevor Noah, shown here in 2009,has been named as Jon Stewart's replacement as host of Comedy Central's Daily Show.

Update: Comedy Central has issued a statement in support of Trevor Noah:

“Like many comedians, Trevor Noah pushes boundaries; he is provocative and spares no one, himself included. To judge him or his comedy based on a handful of jokes is unfair. Trevor is a talented comedian with a bright future at Comedy Central.” 

A day after South African comedian Trevor Noah had been named the new host of the "Daily Show," angry fans are calling for his ouster thanks to old jokes from his Twitter account some are calling racist, anti-Semitic, and sexist.

On Monday, Comedy Central surprised fans when it announced that Mr. Noah, who has appeared as an on-air contributor to the show just three times and is not widely known in the US, would replace host Jon Stewart later this year.

Noah is known for his irreverent take on race, current events, and politics, views he airs on his Twitter account, where he has accumulated more than two million followers since 2009.

But the very medium that has helped propel him to a global audience also appears to be landing Noah in hot water, as scores of Twitter users dug through his timeline, unearthing tweets some have deemed hateful to women, Jews, and others.

For example, on Jewish people and Israel:

On women:

For Noah and Comedy Central, the backlash has been almost immediate.

In a post for The Daily Caller, Jamie Weinstein, a senior editor, wrote that the comedian's tweet about Israel “does seem to suggest that Noah believes Israel is an inherently belligerent country.”

Mr. Weinstein wrote that he thought this was dangerous because “Many young people don’t watch ‘The Daily Show’ just to laugh — they watch the show to get their news. The show shapes perceptions.”

Many on Twitter were more direct in their criticism.

Others came to Noah's defense, arguing that humor should not be policed. They also pointed out that Noah is an equal-opportunity offender: the comedian mocks America, South Africa, and other nations at least as often as he does about Israel.

As the Trevor Noah controversy rages on over Twitter, it raises questions for Comedy Central's popular late-night comedy-news show and for comedy at large: Why was Noah's Twitter account not carefully vetted before he was named host? What role does a comedian's background – race, nationality, gender – play in the jokes he or she can get away with? And in comedy, where, exactly, is the line between boring, daring, and abusive?

Dave Itzkoff notes in the New York Times:

Mr. Noah seemed aware on Tuesday of the controversy surrounding his tweets. Just before 9 a.m. Eastern time, he posted: “Twitter does not have enough characters to respond to all the characters on Twitter.” The tweet was deleted shortly after.

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