CIVIL DISCOURSE

Trevor Noah’s exceedingly polite clash with right-wing star Tomi Lahren was his best “Daily Show” moment yet

Obsession
Glass
Obsession
Glass

The Daily Show host Trevor Noah has found it difficult to emerge from the shadow of his better-known predecessor, comedian and political satirist Jon Stewart. But on last night’s show, Noah had a breakthrough moment when he cordially discussed a range of incendiary topics with the young conservative pundit Tomi Lahren.

Lahren, a 24-year-old firebrand whose videos garner millions of views across Facebook and YouTube, is most notorious in liberal circles for calling the Black Lives Matter movement “the new Ku Klux Klan.” The interview easily could have been vicious, but both she and Noah kept things respectful.

Without becoming aggressive, Noah challenged her on a number of points (including the KKK comparison) while sprinkling in some well-timed wisecracks throughout. It was, dare I say, reminiscent of Stewart’s best interviews, especially ones he had with Republican US senator John McCain and Fox News pundit Bill O’Reilly.

You can watch the unedited 25-minute interview on Comedy Central’s website (video). Topics included globalization, Obamacare, Black Lives Matter, the media, protesting, and immigration. Noah did a good job keeping the heat on Lahren when she seemed to be ducking questions, and he deftly inserted jokes to lighten the mood.

When Lahren said she’s a millennial, and thus does not like to use labels, for instance, Noah pointed out the cognitive dissonance. “Sorry—my brain,” he said. “You just gave a label to say you don’t like labels.”

At one point, Noah pressed Lahren on the question of how she thinks black people should air grievances, given that she has criticized Black Lives Matter, anti-Trump protests, and NFL player Colin Kaepernick’s decision to boycott the US national anthem before games.

“What is the ‘right’ way for a black person to get attention in America?” he asked. Lahren didn’t offer a clear answer, but Noah’s question alone drove home his point.

All in all, the interview was a reasonably constructive, civil conversation between two people with wildly different political views, very much in line with CNN commentator Van Jones’s call for politically divergent people to actually sit down and talk to each other and come to some sort of mutual understanding. (Lahren did, however, end the interview with a crude joke about Bill Clinton being “too busy” to “touch” Hillary Clinton, lowering the tone after an otherwise thoughtful exchange.)

Both Noah and Lahren seemed appreciative of the exchange afterwards:

Not everyone appreciated the cordial tone of the conversation, however, with some calling it another example of liberals normalizing, and acquiescing to, far-right and racist attitudes:

Still, Noah’s performance last night gave us a real glimpse of the 32-year-old comedian’s potential as an interviewer. He still has a long way to go before he becomes the kind of indispensable cultural and political critic that Jon Stewart was, but by hosting and facilitating such a pleasant conversation with an ideological rival, he showed that he may yet carve out a vital role for himself.

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