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If one of Trevor Noah‘s popular jokes sounds familiar, it’s because Dave Chappelle made pretty much the exact same joke nearly 20 years ago.
During a 20-minute stand-up set Saturday at Politicon in Los Angeles, the new host of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show performed a routine in which he referred to himself as a “racism connoisseur” who can discern among degrees of racism, such as the “charming racism” of Kentucky.
“Before I came to America, I thought I knew all kinds of racism,” joked Noah. “I’ve always considered myself something of a racism connoisseur. I appreciate the finer racism. Not to say I appreciate all racism, but a finer racism.”
The phrase “racism connoisseur” rings a bell. Chappelle performed a very similar bit during a January 1998 HBO special, also referring to himself as a “racism connoisseur,” though in Chappelle’s version, he prefers Mississippi’s variety over Kentucky’s.
“Traveling has made me a racism connoisseur, if you will,” said Chappelle, also commenting on the racism’s perceived quality. “You know, it’s different region to region. Anyone ever been down South? So you guys know what I’m talking about. The racism down there is just f—ing (bon appetit gesture) — it’s perfect.”
Other similarities between the two routines include Noah and Chappelle using the N-word with a polite greeting: “Good afternoon, n—er!” for Noah; “Morning, n—er!” for Chappelle.
Noah has performed with the “racism connoisseur” joke multiple times. The comedian did the same routine earlier this summer at several shows, including one in Huntington, New York, and another in L.A.
See below for transcripts of both routines.
Noah (2015): “Before I came to America, I thought I knew all kinds of racism. I’ve always considered myself something of a racism connoisseur. I appreciate the finer racism. Not to say I appreciate all racism, but a finer racism. Before I came here, blatant racism was my favorite. Blatant racism, where you know exactly where you stand, often perpetrated by old people, which I have always appreciated. They’ll just tell it to you like it is. ‘This is what I think about you!’ Yeah, you’re going to die soon. … Charming racism in America changed my life. I discovered it in a place called Lexington, Kentucky. Probably one of the most wonderful places I’ve ever been — charming, friendly people. Racism with a smile and a tip of the hat. … I was walking through the streets, a man walked up to me, didn’t know me from a bar of soap, came straight up to me and looked me dead in the eye, and he was like, ‘Good afternoon, n—er.’ ‘Good afternoon.’ I’ve never seen racism with a smile. I didn’t know what to do. He just said it like it was a fact. As if I fought him, he would have been like, ‘What, didn’t you know?’ ”
Chappelle (1998): “Traveling has made me a racism connoisseur, if you will. You know, it’s different region to region. Anyone ever been down South? So you guys know what I’m talking about. The racism down there is just f—ing (bon appetit gesture) — it’s perfect. Stewed to a perfection. It’s conformable. It’s out in the open. There are no secrets in Mississippi. Everybody knows the deal. ‘Morning, n—er!’ ‘Morning, sir!’ Not up here. Here in the big cities, it’s a secret. And we should be like them. We should keep our shit out in the open and vent a little — I mean with limits. You don’t want to say whatever comes to your mind, that might be a little much. White dude be walking down the street minding his business and a brother walk up to him: ‘Hello, you white oppressor, you slave-master rapist of Africa.’ ‘Why hello, my big-lips, spear-chucking friend.’ “
This is not the first time questions have been raised about similarities between Noah’s material and others’. During an April interview with Channel NewsAsia, comedian Russell Peters accused Noah of stealing from himself and other comedians.
“He’s also a thief, but that’s irrelevant. He’s stolen material from David Kau, he’s stolen material from myself,” said Peters. “You don’t borrow in this business. If you’re a comedian, that’s like stealing somebody’s underwear and putting them on. That doesn’t make any sense. Why would you do that?”
Peters later claimed his remarks were a “prank.”
A representative for Noah declined to comment. THR also reached out to Comedy Central, Chappelle and Peters, none of whom responded.