LOS ANGELES — New Daily Show host Trevor Noah sat down for a brief interview with political commentator James Carville Saturday during the closing event of the inaugural Politicon convention, where the two discussed the 2016 presidential race and Noah’s hopes for his new show.
Minutes earlier, Noah had finished a half-hour comedy routine for the standing-room-only crowd, but the talk turned serious when Carville emerged to conduct the interview.
The late-night host sought to temper comments he made on an episode of the Daily Show last week, where he pointedly criticized Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson for saying that if he were present at the Umpqua Community College shooting in Oregon, he would have fought back.
“Everyone rushed [to Carson] and said, ‘You’re crazy, you crazy man,” Noah said. “And the first thing I say is, ‘Rush the gunman? Oh, he’s right. He’s actually right. If people rush the gunman, there is a chance that the person would be able to kill less people.’
“But he’s callous. And he’s not considering the fact that you’re talking about humans, and not soldiers… But I don’t come from a place where he’s wrong because I stand on the opposite side of him.”
The comments contrast starkly with the monologue he delivered Thursday night on The Daily Show, which labeled Carson’s call for self-defense “crazy,” then mocked the renowned neurosurgeon as dead-eyed and “slow.”
Rushing a gunman? It seems crazy… It’s weird that Ben Carson would think a zombie strategy would be the way to go. Unless… wait a second. Slow, languid pace. Dead eyes. Loves brains. Oh my God, this explains everything, Ben Carson is a zombie!
Carville asked Noah, “When you go back to South Africa, what do they think of American politics? What do your friends back home tell you?”
“It’s interesting, because we see the highlights,” Noah said. “We don’t get the play-by-play, we’re not watching every single game. So let’s say you’re talking about the Republican debate; It’s crazy to see how little of that world you see in South Africa versus watching it here. Here there is a mass consumption, and often an artificial creation of hype around the election.”
“It’s like, I don’t understand polls, for instance,” Noah continued. “I genuinely do not understand them. There’s no logic to it. People go, ‘He’s number one in the polls, so he’s going to win.’ Then they go, ‘Oh no, the polls don’t mean anything.’ ‘So then why do you have the polls?’ ‘Oh, because we need them.’ I say, ‘That’s not logical.’ And they go, ‘Eh, it works.'”
“What would we do without the polls?” Carville asked. Noah responded:
At some point, this blows my mind. Every single election cycle, you’re going to have a bunch of crazy people leading in the polls. This is what frightens me with the polls: let’s say you have radicals that are saying crazy things in public forums. Often those people are regarded as radicals, not the most sane individuals. But then when a poll comes out that verifies that this person is a frontrunner… in a strange way, you’re adding credence to what they’re doing. That person goes, “You see? I said the thing, and the polls are in my favor, so I’m saying the right thing!” And it’s like, “No, no you’re not, it’s just the summer, people are crazy.” But they don’t know that.
“Trump is talking about the largest deportation in human history. What do you think of that?” Carville asked. “You’re a young guy, multi-cultural, multi-everything. How do you process that?”
“I identify with it, strangely enough,” Noah replied, before elaborating:
If you look at what’s happened in South Africa, we have a lot of people who unfortunately have swayed towards a xenophobic sentiment, because the leaders haven’t given them the true answers about why things are going wrong. So when I see Donald Trump saying what he says, I go, “I’ve seen that at home.” When people are struggling, you can sell them any story. Hitler did it Germany. He said, “Do you know why you’re hungry? It’s because of these people.” And that’s the best time to mobilize anyone: when they’re hungry, when they’re scared. You can give them any story, because people want change, and so you can give them that change. And when you’re hungry, or afraid, you will make decisions you wouldn’t normally make. So when I see Donald Trump say these things, I go, “I know what this is. I’ve seen this before…” You just have to be careful with how much credence you give it. That’s the scary thing.
But Noah offered a critical piece of advice to Democrat frontrunner Hillary Clinton:
“This is tough, because I don’t know her. I only know what I know from the media. I can only know what I’ve heard from reports and things I read. But, strangely, I would say to her: ‘Stop trying to be, and just be.'”
When Carville asked Noah what he hoped Americans would think of the Daily Show once the election is over, he sounded an optimistic note:
“I would hope, number one, to see people get some relief from the craziness.” he said. “I feel that’s what comedy is: it’s an outlet. It’s a place where we can vent our frustrations but in a healthy atmosphere. I would hope they go, ‘We had the right information. We laughed about the right things. We had an honest perspective on it, and now we don’t have to think about it for a while.’ That’s what I’d hope people will say.”