Trevor Noah has made further statements regarding a controversial joke he made about Aboriginal women during a 2013 comedy special, which has triggered calls to boycott his 2018 Australian tour after it recently got dredged up online.
Speaking this afternoon with triple J presenters Veronica & Lewis, the Daily Show host admitted that he never intended to cause offence, and would never make the same joke again today, but stopped short of apologising for any hurt caused.
“It’s just interesting when you travel to understand the nuances between cultures that change how a joke is seen as either offensive or funny,” he reflected.
Then, when quizzed by Lewis over whether he feels that comedians have a responsibility to acknowledge if their jokes have had a hurtful impact, he responded: “I think there’s a responsibility [for] a comedian to be as true to what they’re trying to do as possible.
“One thing I’ve learned in comedy is you cannot — unfortunately if you’re a comedian — you cannot compliment your comedy to what everybody is saying, because the truth is everybody can be offended about everything, so you as a comedian have to choose,” he continued.
“So, for instance, with that joke, I’m not trying to make some grand statement, I wasn’t intentionally trying to hurt anyone, and this is not like a core belief where I’m like ‘Yeah, I stand by this, come hell or high water’… I [can] walk away from it.
“But there are some jokes where people go, ‘We don’t like that you say that’ and I’m like ‘Yeah, but that’s what I believe and that’s what I’m gonna say’. And I think that’s what comes with being a comedian.”
He added: “When it comes to responsibility, I think it’s an interesting thing that society has imbued any responsibility on comedians.
“As a comedian I think it’s crazy that sometimes the words of comedians are considered some of the most powerful words out there, and yet the actions of politicians and the words that they say will be dismissed as jokes. It’s sometimes a bit weird living in a world where that will happen.”
Noah also went on to point out that society’s definition of what is and isn’t offensive is in a constant state of flux.
“All the time, the world changes,” he explained. “We live in a world where the Black Eyed Peas once had a number 1 hit record that was ‘Let’s Get Retarded’ and then, over time, I think people changed and [they] were like ‘We need to change that song’. So I think the world constantly changes, and I always tend to look back on my old material and think to myself ‘Oh I’m glad I don’t do jokes like that where I am now in life’.”
Noah’s latest comments come after he responded to the criticism from some of his Aussie fans on Twitter, assuring them that he made a vow to “never make a joke like that again” following a recent trip to Australia.
“After visiting Australia’s Bunjilaka museum and learning about Aboriginal history first hand I vowed never to make a joke like that again. And I haven’t. I’ll make sure the clip from 2013 is not promoted in any way,” he tweeted.
Then, responding to former NRL player Joe Williams — who helped lead the calls for a tour boycott — Noah also added that he is “always open to learning more” about Aboriginal communities.
Noah is scheduled to arrive in Australia next month for a five-date stand-up tour, hitting venues in Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane and Sydney.
@joewilliams_tew you're right. After visiting Australia's Bunjilaka museum and learning about aboriginal history first hand I vowed never to make a joke like that again. And I haven't. I'll make sure the clip from 2013 is not promoted in any way.
— Trevor Noah (@Trevornoah) July 22, 2018