In a recent episode of “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah,” Noah, the host, made a joke that a war between India and Pakistan would be “the most entertaining war of all time.”
While Noah claims he meant it only as a joke, many people were offended by the comment. This begs the question: where do comedians draw the line between being offensive and being funny?
“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 wrote on Twitter.
That tweet was Noah’s only form of an apology.
Many people, especially those of the South Asian community and those effected by the heightened tension between the two countries, continued to call Noah out on Twitter about his wrongdoings.
Akul Verma, a senior at Cal Lutheran and an officer of Club India on campus, found Noah’s joke about possible war distasteful.
“First of all, he made fun of the language, but that’s alright because he’s a comedian and political commentator. But I think that making fun of war is too much. He’s not just making fun of war; he’s making fun of a country and their army as well, which is really close to people’s hearts,” Verma said.
For those unaware of what’s going on between India and Pakistan, the rising tension between the two countries “is at one of the highest points in decades,” according to Vox.
In 2019, a Pakistan-based extremist group carried out a suicide bomb attack that killed dozens of Indian troops in the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir. Last week, Pakistani military shot down and captured an Indian fighter pilot over Kashmir, further heightening the conflict between India and Pakistan.
While unpacking the baggage between the two countries, it’s easy to understand why many people found Noah’s joke to be insensitive. Verma said his family is from an area in India next to Pakistan. He recalls the tension in the country and his worry for his family, which is why he feels that Noah’s joke about a possible war was a bad call.
On March 2, Noah posted another tweet about the backlash facing the joke.
“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. Sometimes it seems like people are more offended by the jokes comedians make about an issue than the issue itself,” Noah tweeted.
This tweet prompted more people to join the conversation. Swara Bhaskar, an Indian actress who works in the Hindi film industry, took to Twitter to personally address the comedian in a series of tweets. She mentioned that she admires his work, but that his tweet was lazy, patronizing and reeking of first world arrogance and colonial stereotypes. She then went on to express her disappointment of seeing comments like these being made by someone who’s normally known for being socially aware.
Bhaskar asked that Noah “drop this America-centric condescension.” She pointed out that the conflict between India and Pakistan was the only trending topic in the two countries as citizens petitioned for both governments to de-escalate.
In her final tweet to Noah, she addresses the hypocrisy of the situation. She said she was amazed that people who are distanced from the effects of the violence and conflict feel self-righteous.
While he did apologize for causing pain to those who may have been offended by his joke, he never took full accountability for his comments.
He didn’t show understanding of why people found his comment to be offensive, and his apology seems disingenuous. While he may not have had ill-intent, it may be wise to steer away from jokes that involve bloodshed and loss.