From BusinessDayLive. Opinion piece by Chris Thurman.
We all love Trevor Noah. It’s our patriotic duty. He is our most successful export to the U.S. since Charlize Theron. We don’t mind losing the brand of humor that made him so popular locally if it means that he uses his platform as the new host of The Daily Show to make South Africa more prominent in the eyes and minds of (self-consciously “liberal” or “progressive”) American and global audiences.
While establishing himself in the US, Noah has emphasized his background as a kid who had to navigate the complexities of racial segregation.
But when, last Thursday, Noah joked that Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy made him “feel at home” because Trump is basically like an African president, he was no longer on the firm ground of autobiographical narrative.
The routine started with South African President Jacob Zuma, based on clips of Trump and Zuma holding forth on immigration and criminality. So far so good, for both South African and American viewers.
Zuma was, however, only the first in a series of African leaders to be compared to Trump. Next came Gambia’s Yahya Jammeh (AIDS crackpot), then Uganda’s Idi Amin (violent egomaniac), then Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe (senile tyrant) and finally Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi (all of the above). Zuma has many failings, but he is not in the league of such villains.
More to the point, these figures should in no way be seen to “represent” African politics. In mocking Trump, Noah clumsily justified the stereotypes that many Americans — and indeed South Africans — cling to when they condemn Africa. His final gag, imitating an imbongi or praise-singer, reinforced the idea that Zuma’s South Africa is where a clown like Trump belongs.
Read more at BusinessDayLive.