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The fickleness of fame: Comedian Trevor Noah is under fire for past remarks

The Internet remains unforgiving as tweets and videos of Trevor Noah’s past stand-up routines and tweets have social media in an uproar. Despite the comedian’s efforts towards open dialogue, respect politics and drastic change since taking over The Daily Show, the public is not willing to excuse past transgressions.

South African comedian Trevor Noah is facing heavy criticism over a video of a stand-up routine dating back to 2013, in which he ridicules Australia’s Aboriginal women.

The resurfaced video was first shared by Australian photographer LaVonne Bobongie, who posted this tweet:

The video, which has since been deleted, shows the host of The Daily Show saying, “All women of every race can be beautiful… and I know some of you are sitting there now, going, ‘Oh, Trevor, I’ve never seen a beautiful Aborigine.’ But you know what you say? You say, ‘Yet.’ Because you haven’t seen all of them, right?”

“Plus it’s not always about looks. Maybe Aboriginal women do special things, maybe they’ll just like, jump on top of you,” he said, before making a suggestive gesture.

Prominent indigenous Australians have taken up criticism of Noah’s insensitive joke and for his reinforcement of the stereotype that Aboriginal women are unattractive.

Australian academic Anita Heiss tweeted:

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Former Australian National Rugby League player Joe Williams also tweeted:

Noah responded to Joe Williams’s tweet with an apology for his behaviour and an avowal to learn more about Aboriginal history. This is what he said:

But, as is the case with every other reckoning on the Internet, social media was quick to dredge up another unsavoury tweet from Noah’s past, in which he appears to make fun of mega popstar Rihanna’s domestic violence case. He tweeted:

This has resurrected the qualms felt by many regarding the comedian’s history of making inappropriate jokes about minorities and women. In addition, many people feel that his apology missed the mark by a mile.

It would be easy to excuse this son of Africa, who was raised by a single mother in a society where he himself was a minority living among minorities, and chalk it up to poor comedic choices. But in the wake of Hollywood’s recent wave of scandals, the star himself has advocated for all people, regardless of status, to be taken to task for unacceptable behaviour or utterances. Time will tell if those moments from Noah’s past were merely unfortunate attempts at comedy or a pattern of behaviour.

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