When controversial old tweets from Trevor Noah‘s account were uncovered less than a day after he was announced as Jon Stewart‘s Daily Show replacement, questions about whether Twitter is a suitable venue for comedy were raised.
NBC’s Last Comic Standing cast has a few opinions on the matter, with judge Keenen Ivory Wayans perhaps the most vocal of them all. “It’s a forum for idiots,” he said of the social media platform onstage at NBCUniversal’s summer press tour. “I don’t know why anyone gives any credence to it. It’s just somebody with an opinion, so who cares?”
Wayans is not alone in his thoughts. The backlash against comedians who post their 140-character jokes even has propelled some to stop using the medium altogether, including host Anthony Jeselnik. “I don’t tweet anymore, really, because of some of the outrage that I’ve received,” he admitted, noting that the criticism usually doesn’t come from fans familiar with the humor. “It’s people who wouldn’t come see you live getting upset because of something they saw on the Internet.”
Wayans agreed with Jeselnik, adding that anyone has the ability to criticize on Twitter — an unwelcome reality for comedians targeting a more select group. “People can heckle you from around the globe now, and they don’t even have to come and be in front of you to do it, ” he said of the public platform. The comedy-competition series’ executive producer Wanda Sykes summed it up: “After a few drinks, I have to watch myself because I’m just one tweet away from ruining it all.”
Despite their distaste for the harsh realities the platform represents for jokesters like themselves, the Last Comic gang was also quick to note the silver lining in such controversies. “The good news is that every time there’s this wave of outrage, it lessens the amount of outrage they can have next time,” Jeselnik pointed out.
A past example took place in 2012, said Jeselnik, when rape jokes Daniel Tosh reportedly made during a stand-up routine at the Laugh Factory were made public on an anonymous woman’s blog. “Now that really can’t happen again with that kind of subject,” contended Jeselnik, “and after this Trevor Noah thing with Comedy Central, the next time a comic gets a job and people comb back through his Twitter feed to find old jokes they didn’t like, I think folks will be like, ‘No, no, no. We’ve already done this. It’s over.’ ”
For Noah’s part, he defended his right to offend by tweeting in the aftermath of the dispute: “To reduce my views to a handful of jokes that didn’t land is not a true reflection of my character, nor my evolution as a comedian.” Comedy Central, too, noted that though Trevor Noah, like most comedians, pushes boundaries, “to judge him or his comedy based on a handful of jokes is unfair.”