Trevor Noah (1984- ), a stand-up comedian, is well-known in his native South Africa but was unknown in the US till he became the host of the “The Daily Show” (1996- ) on Comedy Central. He took over from Jon Stewart a year ago, on September 28th 2015.
Jon Stewart would be a hard act for anyone to follow, even for Jon Stewart himself in 1999 when he started on “The Daily Show”. Most of the show’s writers have stayed on, but now they were writing for a man with a different style of humour and, unlike most of them, was not White American.
The White default is something he notices about the US:
“I remember the first time someone said, ‘Oh, that episode had a lot of black jokes in it.’ And I said, ‘What are black jokes? What does that mean? Was I doing white jokes in the other episode? Cause no one ever came to me and said that.'”
Noah sees humour as universal. He says that as someone who has done stand-up comedy on at least four continents. And as someone who sees the “export-grade racism” of South Africa as merely a purer form of a condition common to much of the world. People are more South African than they think.
Race: His take on race is informed not just by being from South Africa but also by being mixed-race – under apartheid! During the first ten years of his life, South Africa was still under apartheid, which did not allow the races to mix. His Black (Xhosa) mother was thrown in jail several times for being with his White (Swiss German) father. His father could not walk down the street with him. Even his mother would let go of his hand when the police appeared. “I was born a crime,” he says.
So while he is not (yet) as funny as Jon Stewart, his understanding of race is far more profound, his jokes about it less cringeworthy and are not an afterthought. At that level, no other late-night comic currently on US television comes even close.
Issues: Once it became known he would take the place of Stewart, the minions of Gawker combed through his tweets. They found not-nice jokes about Jews and fat women.
Comedy Central, he says, has never stood in his way in doing the kind of comedy he wants. If anything, it seems they think he does not go far enough.
Smile and charm: He seems to float by on smile and charm rather than going in for the kill. But, to be fair, he seems intent on educating White people, many of whom would be frightened by Black outrage, however Stewartesque.
Soweto: Noah was brought up by his mother and grandmother in Soweto, the world-famous Black township of Johannesburg. His mother tongue is Xhosa, he was educated in English, and can speak at least some Afrikaans, Zulu, German, Tsonga and Tswana.
– Abagond, 2016.
- White default
- South Africa
- Sandra Laing – a Black girl born to White parents under apartheid!
- mixed-race identity
- Donald Trump
- racist jokes