Trevor Noah was in the midst of saving up for university — with goals to become involved in computer technology — when he attended a small comedy show in South Africa. By the show comedian’s request, he agreed to step on stage to do an open mic. This was the start for Noah’s career. “Comedy became something that came into my life and into my world,” said Noah in an interview with The Daily Californian.
Since then, Trevor Noah has built a name for himself in the South African entertainment industry and continuously grows his name worldwide, especially as host of “The Daily Show” on Comedy Central (where he succeeded Jon Stewart). Before transitioning into American entertainment and “The Daily Show,” Noah was heavily involved in acting and doing his own comedy sets in South Africa.
While every comedian, Noah included, is influenced by their past, his upbringing in South Africa places him apart from other big-name comedians — for instance, being a mixed-race child during apartheid in South Africa. With his mother being a mixed-race Jewish Xhosa South African woman and his father a white Swiss-German man, the relationship between Noah’s parents was a crime.
As such, Noah uses his comedy to create a space that feels familiar to any individual in his audiences, a space where they can relate and feel less secluded. “I find sharing with an audience is really cathartic,” Noah said. “We’ve all experienced similar heartbreaks, we’ve all experienced similar insecurities.”
His time on “The Daily Show” is no different. As the show’s host, Trevor Noah has the responsibility of providing commentary on major events that aren’t always particularly positive. But Noah has always coped with pain and suffering in his life through comedy.
“It’s a pressure release,” he explained. “It’s just finding a way to escape the moment using comedy and sometimes a way to directly comment on something that is happening.” Given the massive amounts of time Noah puts into his work on “The Daily Show,” he gets firsthand observation on the prominent differences between televised comedy and stand up comedy. He describes “The Daily Show” as a giant machine institution with a lot of moving parts on set that impact the final product of the show. From having advertisers, a network and a time constraint, factors such as these take a great part in determining what can and what cannot be done.
As a public figure with a televised platform, Trevor Noah has learned how to navigate what’s most authentic to him and how he confidently asserts his thoughts and opinions. “I find honesty is really the best medicine. You just go in and stay true to what you believe in and find people who agree with you or people who you can get to at least see your point of view,” explained Noah. “Because I don’t think society has to be a group of people who only agree, but it would work better if we were a society of people who can see the other person’s point of view.” By standing his ground, Noah has discovered the value to get people together to understand varying point of views and making that discovery the main purpose of his role on “The Daily Show.”
In contrast, Noah describes stand up comedy as “theater of the mind.” During stand up, there are no videos and no other audible sound aside from the performer, in this case, Noah’s dialogue. He creates every image and idea on stage, integrating audiences into his world. More specifically, aside from his jokes, Noah does very vivid impersonations and spot on accents that are essential to his comedic style.
And that’s what Noah tries to do: Present his case. By doing so, Noah can have a conversation with an audience — a particular reason for Noah’s love of stand up. “I’m saying something to them, they are replying to me — responding to me with their laughter, with their silence, with their gasps; whatever is going on, I can feel it,” he explains.
Whether on the silver screen or onstage, Noah hopes to create a feeling of togetherness in his comedy shows. “I think we live in a world where a lot of people are telling us how apart we are, and we need to focus on what brings us together,” Noah said. “It doesn’t matter what political affiliation you are, it doesn’t matter how you see the world, but you go, ‘We laughed in that show together.’ ”
Trevor Noah is performing in the Green Music Center at Sonoma State University tomorrow.
Contact Maybelle Caro at [email protected].