Speed Reads

Apes? Really?

Trevor Noah explains racism and comedy to Joe Rogan, his apologists, and Spotify

Joe Rogan had nearly weathered his COVID-19 vaccine misinformation storm when musician India Arie posted "a super-cut of Joe Rogan dropping the N-word like he bought it in bulk at Costco," Trevor Noah said on Monday's Daily Show. "If there's ever a video of you saying the N-word that many times, you better pray one of two things: Either you're a Black person, or you're a dead man from history."

But the next part of the video, where Rogan described watching a movie in a Black neighborhood, was "even worse," Noah said. "That video's so bad it actually made me miss the N-word video." And Rogan clearly recognized he had messed up, because he made "another stop on his apology world tour, and this one was a lot more — and I mean, a lot more — apologetic than his vaccine video," he said. But Noah, like his Daily Show predecessor Jon Stewart, decided to engage with the substance of the controversy.

Noah particularly had "a few issues" with Rogan's argument that the story where he "calls Black people apes" was meant to be "entertaining" not racist. "No, Joe, I think you were using racism to be entertaining," and "you knew that offending Black people would get a laugh out of those white friends that you were with," Noah said. He added that as a comedian, he's a fan of all types of jokes, and "a joke can be racist. In fact, a joke can be racist and funny if you're telling it to the right crowd," but don't pretend it isn't racist. 

After the N-word video controversy, people dug up more "horrible" Rogan videos, "and they just keep coming," Noah said. "If there's something you shouldn't have said in public, basically, Rogan has said it on his podcast." That's a $100 million problem for Spotify, he added, and "part of me actually wishes that Spotify would just drop the facade, just come out and be like: 'We do not believe in silencing Joe Rogan because he makes us money, but if at some point he ends up costing us money, then we will drop him, because money.'"

"And as for Joe Rogan, he says he's learned his lesson, and I hope he has," Noah said. "But I will say, if I were him, I wouldn't walk into a cinema in a Black neighborhood for a little while."