Trevor Noah Sits Down With Expensify for Entertaining DEI Talk

Insight and humor at a 'Long-Ass Table'

"The thing people take for granted with diversity is that it's harder work, but the upsides are so much greater," says Trevor Noah during a conversation with Expensify executives Joanie Wang and Puneet Lath in the first episode of a new DEI video series.

The financial software firm developed the initiative with creative agency Alto, Prettybird director Sam Bailey and culture strategist Zanele Mutepfa-Rhone. The client and agency (back in its JohnXHannes phase) notably collaborated in 2019 on this lauded Super Bowl spot ad starring 2Chainz.

Each segment takes place around a "Long-Ass Table" at Expensify's San Francisco HQ—hence the series title, "LAT Talks." (You'll learn more about that table in the Q&A below.)

In a free-wheeling 20-minute dialogue, Noah tackles a range of topics through irreverence and observational humor, his stock in trade as host of The Daily Show. He mixes sharp takes on growing up in South Africa and our tech-obsessed culture with profound (and occasionally profane) riffs on race relations.

In three short preview clips, Noah discusses social media ("We are unable to completely and accurately ascertain people's tone"), Black/white tensions ("To treat the symptoms or cause of something, you have to acknowledge what made it that way") and staying sane in 2021 ("Without comedy, life is just a miserable experience").

What's the Problem With Online Communication?
Don't Forget to Be a Human Being
Why Doesn't America Like to Talk About Race?

And here's the full film, packed with laughs and insights:

Below, Expensify marketing lead Joanie Wang, sustainability director Puneet Lath, and Alto executive creative director Jason Bagley reveal how the project came together.

Muse: How did Noah get involved?

Puneet Lath: When we started talking about this series, Trevor's name kept coming up. The combination of his lived experience and his ability to use humor and storytelling to talk about real issues made us confident that he'd be the perfect person to talk with and learn from. The goal of the series is to tackle big, important topics—but we wanted to do it with a human touch. The point isn't to preach, but to start a conversation in a way that makes everyone feel open to participating.

Why take such a novel, long-form approach?

Joanie Wang: We feel this content is relevant to everyone. It aims to encourage people who are looking for ways to start these conversations at their small business or company, and to give them material that can either stand on its own or act as a supplement to internal DEI initiatives.

We knew the topics couldn't be explained in 60 seconds. Where we landed feels right. And frankly, Trevor Noah is interesting as hell. In our own DEI training, we found that first-person narratives stood out and stuck with audiences. We are sharing the full conversation via a podcast episode that goes beyond the 20-minute film. The shorter edits we will use across social media.

Can you talk about the making-of, what went down on set?

Jason Bagley: Most of us hadn't been on location for a shoot in over a year, so after making sure everyone was Covid negative, it was fun and exciting to actually be there. You really appreciate working alongside real-life humans when you haven't been able to do it for a while. Many of us have worked with a lot of celebrities. Sometimes they exceed expectations, and sometimes they let you down. Trevor was everything you'd want and more. He's warm, friendly, charismatic and an absolute pro. We knew we had a good interview because once we started rolling, we almost forgot we were on production. The conversation was so interesting and entertaining to watch.

What's with that Long-Ass Table?

Puneet Lath: At every Expensify office, there is a giant table. As a piece of furniture, it's the perfect representation of openness, inclusion and democracy. Everyone sits together, and there's always room for more to join. Even our CEO works from the Long-Ass Table. And for the purposes of the show, with only three people sitting at it, it's the perfect metaphor for how much room is left at the big table for people of every background.

What's next for the series—how does it evolve?

Puneet Lath: We screened the episode internally and the reaction from employees was incredible. They had a lot of different ideas about who they'd want to hear from next. We've started exploring possibilities. Ultimately, though, this isn't just about us. We want to hear from our community. We're excited to see what our community thinks, what topics are important to them, and who they want to hear talking about those topics.

CREDITS

Agency: Alto
Chief Creative Officer: Hannes Ciatti
Head of Strategy: Tara Fray
Executive Creative Director: Jason Bagley
Design Director: Cindy Nguyen
Creative Director: Masataka Kawano
Creative Director: Tevin J Tavares
Creative Director: Brock Kirby

Production Company: Prettybird
Director: Sam Bailey

Brand: Expensify
Director of Marketing and Brand: Joanie Wang
Director of Sustainability: Puneet Lath
Consultant: BrandZanele
Culture and Diversity Strategist: Zanele Mutepfa-Rhone

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