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Trevor Noah faced stern criticism this weekend after joking on The Daily Show that if the India-Pakistan crisis erupted into war, it would probably be “the most entertaining war of all time,” followed by a gag of Bollywood stereotypes.
In the clip shared by many on Twitter, Noah said, “The Indian soldiers would run out on the battlefield and they’d be like,” at this point, Noah switches to imitating an Indian accent while singing, “Time for you to die!” He danced and sang in the accent for a few more seconds, then said, “It would also be the longest war of all time—another dance number?”
Indian Twitter user and writer Zainab Sikander posted the clip with harsh criticism for Noah, saying, “It’s sad when someone who’s had a violent past mocks war through a Bollywood stereotype.” She continued, asking how Noah would feel if someone mocked his mother’s death with a Xhosa stereotype.
It's sad when someone who's had a violent past mocks war through a Bollywood stereotype. @Trevornoah 's mother was shot in the head by her husband(Trevor's stepfather).Imagine someone making fun of it with a Xhosa stereotype - the tribe his mum belongs topic.twitter.com/pUFrm3Iavv— Zainab Sikander (@zainabsikander) March 2, 2019
To his credit, Noah responded to the criticism from Sikander, saying he actually did make jokes after his mother was killed. “As a comedian I use comedy to process pain and discomfort in my world but I am sorry that this hurt you and others, that’s not what I was trying to do,” Noah said on Twitter.
Actually if you watch my stand up you'll see that I did make jokes after my mother was shot in the head. As a comedian I use comedy to process pain and discomfort in my world but I am sorry that this hurt you and others, that's not what I was trying to do. https://t.co/OuVnkHyIfG— Trevor Noah (@Trevornoah) March 2, 2019
Unfortunately, he followed up the apology tweet with another that many are saying shows he doesn’t really get it. “It’s amazing to me that my joke about the conflict in India and Pakistan trended more than the story of the actual conflict itself,” wrote Noah. “Sometimes it seems like people are more offended by the jokes comedians make about an issue than the issue itself.” People on Twitter criticized him for diminishing the valid criticisms of his joke, as well as the seriousness of the conflict.
Someday, maybe in months or years, you will regret the quality of that joke (lazy writing) even if you don't regret its politics and lack of humanity. I was not offended but still disappointed that even at such a high level your writers chose to dehumanize a bloody conflict.— वरुण (@varungrover) March 3, 2019
This is SO. NOT IT. Trevor Noah doesn’t understand that people were offended because it’s....not funny to joke about people dying? It has been trending for days, everyone is talking about it. To avoid responsibility and to avoid apologizing, he’s trying to shift the blame. https://t.co/18ZEVo4Yee— sai (@Saisailu97) March 3, 2019
Yo, the Apu accent and joking about Bollywood when it comes to India became old last century. I'm surprised you didn't throw in a butter chicken joke alongside to make it the holy trinity of the stereotype Indian gag.— Nishtha (@RootKanal) March 2, 2019
One Indian journalist and Trevor Noah fan, Vidya Krishnan, voiced the frustrations of many. “You wouldn’t have joked abt your mum while she was in the hosp, I’m guessing,” Krishnan wrote on Twitter. “While there is a stand off b/w two nuclear powers..an outsider mocking us on our accent wasn’t funny at all.”
Alex Dalbey is a writer and zinester currently living in Saint Paul, Minnesota. They have written for The Daily Dot, Kill Screen, The Lingerie Addict, and Bullet Points.