The new ‘Daily Show’ host and Israel
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The new ‘Daily Show’ host and Israel

South African comedian Trevor Noah tapped to take over from Jon Stewart, but fans wonder about his views on Middle East

South African comedian Trevor Noah appearing on 'The Daily Show', December 2014. (screen capture: YouTube/Comedy Central)
South African comedian Trevor Noah appearing on 'The Daily Show', December 2014. (screen capture: YouTube/Comedy Central)

Many late-night comedy fans had the same reaction Monday morning when it was announced that Trevor Noah, a 31-year-old South African stand-up comedian who is relatively unknown in the United States, will replace Jon Stewart as the next host of “The Daily Show”: Who exactly is this guy?

Viewers had been calling on Comedy Central to appoint someone well-known like Tina Fey or the fan-favorite “Daily Show” correspondent Jessica Williams to succeed Stewart (overall, the insistence on having a female host in the male-dominated world of late-night comedy was also a constant).

However, some hard-core “Daily Show” fans may recall Noah’s three memorable appearances as a correspondent on the show starting in December of last year, in which he skewered American (and more generally Western) views and stereotypes of Africa.

Noah, born to a black South African mother and a white Swiss father (when interracial relationships were illegal in apartheid South Africa), is already a star in his home country, where he has filmed several stand-up specials. In 2012 and 2013 he became the first South African comedian to perform on “The Tonight Show” and “The Late Show with David Letterman” respectively, and in 2012 he was the subject of a documentary called “You Laugh But It’s True.”

Amid all of the anticipation surrounding Noah’s surprise appointment, fans are already keenly interested in his views on the hot-button political topics that Stewart has never been afraid to address — especially the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

This interest in his Middle East views is of course mainly due to the fact that Jon Stewart was (and has been) one of the only mainstream American comedians to harshly critique Israel’s stance towards the Palestinians. Even HBO “Real Time” host Bill Maher, one of this era’s most outspoken and unapologetically liberal comics, is usually seen as more pro-Israel than Stewart (and has even been pegged by some as anti-Muslim because of his views on Muslim extremists).

Meanwhile former “Tonight Show” host Jay Leno, who will travel to Israel in June to host the Genesis Prize award ceremony for the second consecutive year, recently told the Associated Press, “It seems like (Israel has) the worst PR in the world,” adding “I don’t understand how Israel is the bad guy here. It doesn’t make any sense to me.”

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