Trevor Noah

Trevor Noah

Date of birth: 20-02-1984

The son of a white Swiss father and black South African mother, Trevor Noah started his entertainment career as an actor or on the South African soap opera, Isidingo in 2002, when he was 18. After a stint as a radio and TV performer he decided to to focus stand-up and his stand-up comedy specials in South Africa include The Daywalker (2009), Crazy Normal (2011), That's Racist (2012), and It's My Culture (2013).

Noah made his Edinburgh Fringe debut in 2012 with his show The Racist, which was produced with the support of Eddie Izzard. He was the first South African stand-up comedian to appear on The Tonight Show (2012) and The Late Show with David Letterman (2013).

In December 2014, he joined The Daily Show with Jon Stewart as a correspondent.

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Trevor Noah: End Of Days

Gig review by Julia Chamberlain at the O2

Trevor Noah last night filled the O2 with people, laughter and warmth with a performance of uncommon charm. 

On the day of Meghan Markle’s and Prince Harry’s wedding, he mined a rich seam of material on the royals, black weddings and how the television commentators hilariously danced around using the word ‘black’ in reference to the bride, the guests, the preacher and the rest of it. Pretty good for the most topical, newly minted material of the day. 

He addressed the relief that he felt that the embarrassing member of the bride’s family was the white parent, because white people are accorded the privilege of being an individual, they don’t have to represent ‘all white people’ in tabloid reporting, as a black person does. It’s a ‘funny because it’s true’ observation made without rancour – and this mildness is what marked the tone of the set. 

It takes a special talent to tackle the big subjects, racism, apartheid, British Empire, slavery, gun control and the inevitable Trump and dismantle it all without heat or vitriol, but assassinate by gentle ribbing. 

He ridiculed the notion that it was a ‘black wedding’ because it was all so carefully selected – if you have a black cellist, then the ‘cellist’ part cancels out ‘black’ it is so middle class, it was a great example of exceptionalism where you don’t have the vocal and embarrassing black family, you have the very best, Idris Elba, Bishop Michael Curry, Oprah, there was no redressing of societal imbalances through this guest list.

Noah’s enactments of excruciating, awkward British politeness – ‘sorry we’re closed', 'sorry this country’s ours now’ – weren’t anything new, nor was the good old comedy trope of black people who beat their kids, matching the blows to the syllable of the reprimand, but they were exceptionally well done, his easy physicality reminiscent of Richard Pryor

He has a pleasing facility with mimicry, good at accents from all around the world and the juxtaposition of incomprehensible rap with an impersonation of a whinging toddler drew belly laughs from the crowd. Using this easy approach he managed to reproof British versions of history (a military hero in South Africa used a gun against the Zulus, picking off unarmed men with bullets) but the account in the UK is one of heroism and not brutality. As he put it, it is not a battle when (only) one side has a gun.

Noah moved in and out of politics. His long story of a trip to Bali took us away, where he discovered that a black version of Trip Advisor would be an advantage for the unwary, and set up an obvious callback, but we enjoyed the journey. He understands the dynamics of storytelling like a master, holding the audience in the palm of his hand, teasing them along slowly and quietly for the Balinese segment and then later triumphantly charging to the finishing line with his high-energy account of childhood battles with his mum and cousins.

He made it look so gracefully simple. This was a joyful evening where his material was smart but not harsh, refreshingly free of vulgarity (you really could take your grandmother to see him), and gave you food for thought, as well as bathing the room in warmth and unfeigned charm. Just what you want at the end of a long week. A shame it was in the beastly O2 with its cold light and echoing sound, but he triumphed.

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Published: 20 May 2018


Past Shows

Edinburgh Fringe 2012

Trevor Noah: The Racist

Edinburgh Fringe 2013

Trevor Noah: The Racist [2013]

Edinburgh Fringe 2015

Trevor Noah: Lost in Translation


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