Who is Trevor Noah?
South Africans are overjoyed at the news that Trevor Noah will replace John Stewart on the Daily Show.
The 31-year-old comedian comes from the country’s biggest township of Soweto. He is the son of a black South African woman of Xhosa background and a white Swiss man.
In a place polarised by race, his great sense of humour cuts across the racial divide.
He started his career on a local soap opera and progressed to host a celebrity gossip show. He also had a stint as a DJ on a popular show at a youth station.
His self-deprecating humour has gained him a legion of fans. He previously described himself as a “bag of weed”, because his mother used to drop him as soon she saw the apartheid police in the 80s.
Under South African law at the time, multiracial romantic relationships were prohibited.
His mixed-race heritage, experiences of growing up in Soweto and observations about race are the leading themes in his comedy.
In 2013 he became the first African comedian to perform on Jay Leno’s Tonight Show in the United States.
Last December, he made his debut as an international correspondent on the Daily Show, offering an outsider’s perspective on life in America. After only three appearances, he has been offered the top slot taking over from Jon Stewart.
Stewart announced he would be stepping down earlier this year after 16 years at the helm.
Noah’s catalogue of witty anecdotes includes a story about an encounter with an American of Mexican decent on the streets of Los Angeles.
The man approached Noah and began speaking to him in Spanish. When the comedian tried to explain that he did not speak the language and was in fact from South Africa, not South America, the man reacted in anger.
“You must be ashamed of yourself,” he said. “Now that you have made here it in America, you no longer speak your mother tongue.”
Noah, is however, a multi-linguist. He speaks six South African languages and is conversant in German and French.
On another occasion he regaled fans with a tale about an incident in a German supermarket. He had gone into the store to buy a cold drink. The lady behind the counter was wide-eyed and surprised at how he spoke German. She was apparently shocked at Noah’s “Hitler-ish accent”.
It turns out Noah picked up some of his German by watching a lot of Hitler’s tapes.
He is also hugely talented when it comes to mimicking politicians.
President Jacob Zuma has on many occasions delivered a whole show of material for him. He once impersonated Mr Zuma’s slow reading when he delivers speeches from prepared text.
He would start by saying “we are going to party” and the audience would celebrate in anticipation of a party. The president would continue to say… “icipate” to his audience’s disappointment.
Part of his popularity here in South Africa is because his jokes are not full of foul language. Whole families can watch his material without skipping a generation.
Like many comedians around the world, Noah hasn’t shied away from controversial issues. He once told a joke about the Paralympian Oscar Pistorius during the athlete’s trial which didn’t go down well with some of his thousands of followers on Twitter. The reaction made the news on local media.
He also told a joke about Nelson Mandela when the old statesman was ill and frail. Although some people were offended by his remarks, his appeal continued to grow.
Noah’s appointment at the head of one of the most successful shows in the US is proof that Africa is not just about Boko Haram, Ebola, death and destruction.
It is about many other things, such as first-grade comedy.
March 31st, 2015