Trevor Noah is completely aware of the enormity of his task in replacing Jon Stewart on The Daily Show. “A guy doesn’t leave and another comes in and there’s no backlash. That never, ever happens,” said Noah in a massive, just-released profile in GQ.
He also admitted to hating some of his previous jokes (“You show me half my jokes from two years ago, three years ago, I hate them”). He doesn’t elaborate on which, exactly, but he does go into a consideration of responses to his 2012 Tonight Show routine, which contained a lot of American racial stereotypes. Coming from someone neither from America nor immersed in black American culture, some found the jokes irksome. (He’d also received backlash for old tweets that emerged right after his hosting gig was announced.)
During the routine in question he joked about some African-American names saying, “It’s almost like they lose their minds with the Scrabble pieces while giving birth. Like, ‘What are we going to name her? Oh snap — Tanequa!”
He told GQ that the experience taught him something:
I look back on it and I go, ‘Had I known, I would’ve done it differently’… Because when you come from a different place, you don’t realize the minefield you’re walking into. I do know this: I continued doing the Leno bit after I’d done it on Leno. But the way I did it slash would do it today is completely different. I’ve now learned how to be emotionally aware of how people may use your joke in a negative way. And that’s something that you’re always trying to navigate in comedy. You know, Dave Chappelle talked about it as well—if you’re not careful, someone can use your words to hurt somebody else.
His appointment to replace the beloved Stewart is a risk that even Comedy Central acknowledges. “I will not lie. Yes: I have moments of great anxiety,” said Comedy Central president Michele Ganeless.
Noah’s debut Daily Show episode will air on September 28th.