Here's why Trevor Noah sparked outrage around the world

28 December 2018 - 10:00 By Kyle Zeeman
Trevor Noah had people around the world in a huff with his comments.
Trevor Noah had people around the world in a huff with his comments.
Image: Instagram/ Trevor Noah

Trevor Noah has been flying that SA flag higher than Mount Kilimanjaro overseas but there was a point this year that had fans wondering if he wanted to move back to Mzansi to hide from the haters.

July seemed like a safe month. It was the middle of the year and because we were all hiding our winter bodies, it wasn't particularly eventful. Not for Trevor though. In fact, he may consider striking July off 2018's calendar. 

It started like any other month, with him dominating US TV with his The Daily Show and cracking his little jokes.

and then...


Great news if you're a Frenchman. Also great if you're an African considering a large part of the winning side had African heritage.

Trevor, like pointed it out and BOOM! backlash.

He posted a picture of a boat carrying refugees taking the World Cup to France and later joked on his show that Africa had won the World Cup.

Trevor did not caption the picture with his thoughts on it but many on social media accused him of "racism" and of trying to erase their French identity.

French ambassador Gerard Araud also wrote a strongly-worded letter to the comedian, arguing that "nothing could be less true". He pointed out that only two of the 23-man squad came directly from Africa and that other players' parents had moved to France.

"This, even in jest, legitimises the ideology which claims whiteness as the only definition of being French," he added. 

Trevor did not take the criticism lying down and hit back at the letter. In a Between the Scenes segment on his show, Trevor said that he understood the argument but coming from South Africa he noticed how many Africans celebrated the French achievement.

"Why can't they be both? Why is that duality only afforded to a select group of people. Why can't they be African too?...So, you can't be French and African at the same time? Which I vehemently disagree with."

He added that being French didn't erase their African heritage.

"When I'm saying 'African' I'm not saying it to exclude them from their French-ness, I'm saying it to include them in my African-ness."

But just as that ship had sailed (see what we did there?) Trevor made headlines again.


Aboriginal activist and photographer LaVonne Bobongie shared a clip of Trevor making a joke about Aborigine women during a show in SA five years ago. 

In the video, Trevor discussed the idea that there is no beautiful race before making a comment about Aboriginal women. 

"And I know some of you are sitting there now going, ‘Oh Trevor, yeah, but I’ve never seen a beautiful Aborigine’. Yeah, but you know what you say? You say ‘yet’, that’s what you say; ‘yet’. Because you haven’t seen all of them, right?”

LaVonne called for a boycott of Trevor's  Australian tour and soon the whole internet was ablaze with comments about whether Trevor was just doing his job as a comedian or had overstepped the line.

A few days after the debacle he spoke to Australian radio station Triple J and said it was important to look at the context of the joke but admitted that if he had to make the joke again, he would "probably make it better".

“At the time, I was trying to make a joke about how all women are beautiful and I was responding to comments about certain women being called unflattering in South Africa. It’s one of those things where, if you were to make the joke again you would probably make it better.”

Trevor said that after being educated about the gravity of the statement during a visit to Australia, he let go of the joke and didn't repeat it again. 

“I’m not trying to hurt people in comedy — if I was, I’d get another job. If I wasn't trying to hurt anyone with the joke, then I see no reason to hold onto the joke. That’s why people have to go to find a joke from 2013 to basically speak about it — because the joke wasn’t done anymore. But I understand how outrage works, and you have to work within it.”