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Don't Be Mad at Trevor Noah for His Twitter Jokes; Be Mad at the Guy He Probably Stole Them From*

By Dustin Rowles | Celebrity | April 9, 2015 |

By Dustin Rowles | Celebrity | April 9, 2015 |

As the NYTimes writes in its piece on the joke-stealing controversy that Trevor Noah is currently embroiled in, “If an announcement of a presidential candidacy were as rocky as Comedy Central’s introduction of Trevor Noah, The Daily Show would have a field day with it.”

A political campaign is exactly how this is beginning to feel, too. We become enamored with a candidate, and then the other side does everything imaginable to take the candidate down a peg. While you might want to completely dismiss Trevor Noah based on a few jokes he made three to five years ago, consider this:

— Bill Clinton had his usage of marijuana from decades earlier used against him.

— Hillary Clinton — who wasn’t even running for President — had old dealings at her law firm used against her, and by extension, her husband.

— John Kerry’s war record in Vietnam — from 30 years ago — was being used against him when he was Swift boated.

— The Democrats, unsuccessfully, attempted to use George W. Bush’s shady college past against him.

— Right-wing conservatives tried to ruin Barack Obama because of a birth-certificate controversy. Obama wasn’t even born yet! And he had no control over it.

Decades-old allegations are used against politicians every year. Apparently, taking over The Daily Show puts Trevor Noah in the same vetting category (although, James Corden was apparently spared that vetting when he took over The Late Late Show).

It’s all a goddamn game of politics, isn’t it?

The latest controversy involves alleged joke stealing. Comedian Russell Peters created an uproar earlier this week by accusing Noah of stealing jokes. However, the next day, Peters confessed it was all a “prank,” that the media is gullible, and we should all have a good laugh about it.

Trevor Noah wasn’t bothered; in fact, he joked about it himself.

But now comes the NYTimes with another piece, suggesting that maybe Russell Peters wasn’t playing a prank after all. “Mr. Russell’s assertion that he was pulling a prank seems implausible. (Why is taking shots at another comic’s reputation in a small market supposed to be funny?)”

In fact, the Times continued, there’s a history here of allegations against Noah stealing jokes, dating back to earlier work in South Africa.

Mr. [David] Kau, who declined to comment for this article, posted two tweets that linked to old stand-up performances of his with the defiant hashtag #IDidTheseJokes1st. One of the jokes, which Mr. Kau told at a Johannesburg club in 2006, was very similar to one that Mr. Noah performed on “The Tonight Show” with Jay Leno in 2012. That assured performance was Mr. Noah’s breakthrough on American television.

Asked about accusations that he’s stolen jokes in an 2013 interview, Noah responded, “Nobody owns comedy. Nobody owns a premise, nobody owns an idea.”

So, is he arguing that he did steal an idea, but that it’s OK because ideas aren’t legally protected?

I don’t know.

I’m with the Times on this: At some point, Noah “will need to respond in detail, forcefully, bluntly and with humor. And maybe he should do so somewhere other than on Twitter.”

The whole thing just kind of makes me sick to my stomach. I don’t know who to believe. I don’t know whether I’m bummed about Noah, or bummed with the media (and myself) for making any of this an issue. What’s the statute of limitations on misbehavior? If a 19 year old does something criminally dumb (and cruel) but transforms himself into a shining, valuable member of society, does he get a free pass? Do we forgive offensive jokes that are over three years old? Or six months old? is it fair to demonize Justin Bieber before we know how he turns out in 10 years? Or 20 years? Do we just weigh the misdeeds against everything else and draw a conclusion based on the whole person? Or do we write someone off based on their worst misdeed?

You know what? Just ignore me. While you all are down in the comments calling us hypocrites, I’ll continue processing my feelings.

(*The headline was just a joke. A JOKE, PEOPLE.)

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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.