My Problem with Trevor Noah

I’ve seen a lot on Facebook and the media about how Trevor Noah killed it in his interview with The Blaze media personality Tomi Lahren. But I didn’t like it one bit. For me, it was just another in a series of disappointing “what-ifs” that the Daily Show has become under Noah’s tenure, which started with that dumb Kevin Hart interview and has now improved slightly to this.

Here’s my problem: the interview was modeled as a “this is how we can talk to people who disagree with us” segment, but what Noah did in the segment, offering analogies and pointing out inconsistencies where possible, is not how to talk to people who disagree with you. Or rather, it’s only how you talk to people who disagree with you in good faith.

Lahren did not disagree in good faith. We could tell from two minutes in, was full of shit, and not just in a “she has terrible views on race and gender” way (she does) but in an “I’m going to make up a BS explanation to cover my tracks if I ever get something wrong” way. Noah uncovered this pretty early on when he pressed about her tweet (I think it was a tweet) about supporting Pence after the Access Hollywood tape and Lahren said “that was just my way of supporting the whole Republican ticket.” Now, I don’t know Tomi Lahren, but I know that’s a lie. It just is. There’s no way it’s not. She did the same thing when, two minutes after talking about how she supported Rubio, she talked about how she supported Trump because the GOP needed a lot of change. Huh? What?

When someone is playing you for a fool like Lahren was, the appropriate thing to do is not to calmly sit back, listen, and ask measured questions that they can give more BS answers to. You need to call them out and ask them to stop it. Jon Stewart was so, so good at this on the air. His best moments—I’m thinking of the Crossfire interview, the Mad Money interview, and his First Responders bill advocacy—involved Stewart calling people out on their BS by simply saying, “You’re full of shit,” in so many words. It led to some awkward conversations, sure. But it brought about real change! Our media environment sucks right now, but it would’ve sucked more had Stewart not had some of those conversations.

Jon Stewart grills Jim Cramer of Mad Money. It was a tough conversation to watch, but Cramer committed to changing things.
Instead, what Noah did was try to spin a web of contradictions for Lahren to fall into, so that we progressives could laugh quietly to ourselves about how terrible and inconsistent Lahren was, or whatever. When people talk about how progressives get their jokes by smugly laughing at the right-wing, this is what they’re talking about. But it’s an anti-confrontation. Noah gets to go home and show his viewers how he made Lahren look like an idiot, Lahren gets to go home and brag about how she got out all her talking points on TDS, and the center gets to brag about how “liberals and conservatives can get together” without realizing that they’re just talking past each other. Rinse, repeat, and watch our media silos grow deeper and deeper. This was not one of the great Stewart-O’Reilly debates of years past; this was partisan hackery, and Noah should’ve recognized that from the get-go.

Now, it’s unfair to compare Trevor Noah to Jon Stewart. Stewart was/is a once-in-a-generation talent with an unparalleled ability to sense BS and call people out on it. Trevor Noah is never going to replicate that, no matter what he does. But, as we head into perhaps the toughest media environment in decades with a President who, it seems, is made up of nothing but BS, it’s concerning to me that the host of the Daily Show isn’t able to call BS out for what it is. If Trevor Noah isn’t willing to be brave enough to call people out, let’s get someone in there who is.

So that’s me. Anyone who liked the interview, please tell me why I’m wrong and why Comedy Central shouldn’t beg and plead Larry Wilmore to come back and save the Daily Show ASAP.

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