Trevor Noah Defends ‘Green Book’ Joke on ‘The Daily Show’ Emmy Billboards (EXCLUSIVE)

Trevor Noah was hoping to make some noise with his latest “The Daily Show” Emmy campaign billboard — and it’s a mission he accomplished. “A billboard is supposed to get people’s attention,” Noah told Variety. “If we’re going to make a billboard, why waste your time [if you’re] not telling a joke or making it interesting? ‘The Daily Show’ is about sparking conversation.”

That’s indeed what the ad, seen around in Los Angeles and New York, has done. “Don’t ‘Green Book’ This One, Guys,” the billboard reads, and it’s a reference, of course, to the debate this past winter over whether “Green Book” deserved to win best picture at the Oscars.

Noah and his “Daily Show” writing team came up with the Emmy campaign after observing the handwringing in Hollywood over the “Green Book” win. Fans of the film appreciated its message about tolerance and unlikely friendships, while critics felt it was trite and a throwback to movies that take a surface view to race relations. It’s gotten to the point where a Google search for “Oscar” and “Green Book” leads off with these two headlines: “Oscars 2019: Why ‘Green Book’ should never have won best picture,” from USA Today, and “Oscar Winners: ‘Green Book’ Is a Best Picture Mistake” from The Atlantic.

Noah said the FYC ad wasn’t meant to be seen as an attack against “Green Book,” as much as it was a commentary on the whole idea of people getting worked up by that win — and having some fun with the debate.

“There were a few instances of early Oscar voters who said post the awards, they hadn’t even watched the other movies, or they voted for ‘Green Book’ just because they were angry that people said they shouldn’t vote for ‘Green Book,'” Noah said. “So it was an interesting moment where some people were using an Oscars vote as a protest vote or as a statement. And then people expressed a bit of regret after.”

The billboard, he said, was ultimately about “really stirring the pot. That’s what we do.

“The reason the billboard connects with people is because we tapped into a vein that clearly exists,” he said. “What we tapped into here is the whole fight that people are having about what should have won, what could have won and what didn’t win.”

Photos of the billboards are now starting to pop up on social media as people begin to notice the ad around town. (In L.A., there are at least two billboards located near the intersection of La Cienega and Olympic boulevards.)

“I don’t think it’s about throwing shade,” Noah added. “This is the space that ‘The Daily Show’ works within. We make jokes as commentary about what’s happening in the world around us. It goes from politics to pop culture to social justice to what’s happening in the world. And I think that billboard was exactly that.”

Noah said he had nothing against “Green Book” or its filmmakers, include Peter Farrelly. But still, it’s worth a debate over whether the “best picture” label was justified.

“I love Mahershala Ali more than I love most actors,” he said. “But, if we’re going to act like that is the best film winner, it’s a bit of a crazy that world we live in. We can agree to disagree, and I think that’s what makes these things fun. I don’t think there’s any objective measure of what makes art or something that people create good.”

Noah hasn’t seen one of the billboards out in the wild himself yet. Because “The Daily Show” shoots in New York, he says he feels a bit removed from the Emmy FYC frenzy in Los Angeles.

“It is a little fun to throw a cat among the pigeons and if some people take things way too seriously, we generally don’t,” he said. “We don’t take ourselves seriously, if you look at our previous FYC boards. My mantra at the show is, ‘let’s take the serious things seriously and let’s have fun with everything else.’ That’s how I try to live my life and that’s how I try to create ‘The Daily Show.'”

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