Trevor Noah, the host of “The Daily Show,” said that he experienced “culture shock” stepping into Jon Stewart’s shoes during a great time of division in American history.
“The truth is that Jon never liked being labeled the Great Eviscerator. He didn’t think it was healthy, and he always tried to think about the details of issues with a healthy dose of skepticism before going on air and putting his ideas out into the world,” Noah wrote in a piece published to The New York Times before going on to say that he, too, had never been raised in a culture of evisceration when it came to comedy.
“In South Africa, where I come from, we also use comedy to critique and analyze, and while we don’t let our politicians off the hook, we don’t eviscerate one another,” he wrote, latter adding, “In South Africa, comedy brings us together. In America, it pulls us apart.”
He spoke to his own upbringing as a person of mixed race in apartheid South Africa, noting that he had been forced to see both sides, something that just doesn’t happen in the United States.
“America, I’ve found, doesn’t like nuance. Either black people are criminals, or cops are racist — pick one. It’s us versus them. You’re with us, or you’re against us. This national mentality is fueled by the hysteria of a 24-hour news cycle, by the ideological silos of social media and by the structure of the country’s politics. The two-party system seems to actively encourage division where none needs to exist,” he wrote.
He then specifically called out the election of Donald Trump as dividing the country even further, saying, “The past year has been so polarizing and noxious that even I find myself getting caught up in the extreme grandstanding and vitriol. But with extremes come deadlock and the death of progress. Instead of speaking in measured tones about what unites us, we are screaming at each other about what divides us — which is exactly what authoritarian figures like Mr. Trump want: Divided people are easier to rule. That was, after all, the whole point of apartheid.”
“To the extremists and true believers of any cause, there is an idea that moderation and compromise are simply a prelude to selling out and giving up, when in fact the opposite is true — moderation brings radical ideas to the center to make them possible,” he added.
He finished his piece by saying, “When you grow up in the middle, you see that life is more in the middle than it is on the sides. The majority of people are in the middle, the margin of victory is almost always in the middle, and very often the truth is there as well, waiting for us.”