From Apartheid Straight to Your Living Rooms! (Stand-up Comedy Review: “Trevor Noah: African American”)

Meet Trevor Noah . . . can he fill Jon Stewart’s shoes or has he failed before he’s even sat behind the desk at The Daily Show?

SnapShot Plot

In our thin-skinned, politically correct Entertainment culture, it’s starting to look like it might be easier running for political office than aspiring to be a comedic voice worth paying attention to. And the lines between the two professions have never been so co-mingled – or co-dependent – as they are when it comes to the unique mixture of hard news and zany, irreverent humor otherwise known as The Daily Show.

With the surprise announcement of relative unknown South African comedian, writer and actor, Trevor Noah to replace the venerable Jon Stewart, all eyes were on this mystery man so it’s no shock that something, anything had to materialize on social media to take the shine off what should have been an exciting time in this young talent’s life. Apparently some years back a small number of Noah’s tweets (as the reporting has indicated) have included offensive remarks about overweight women and Jews, among a few other groups. Comedy Central is sticking by their man, but others are out for blood, according to what’s being written, tweeted and shouted in the media. I decided to check out his stand-up show on Netflix, Trevor Noah: African American to see for myself if a) he’s really the Devil, and b) if he has what it takes to host the smartest, funniest show on American television. You be the judge but to my taste, he’s sophisticated, insightful, has an elegant presence, a freakish ear for mimicry, and in fact may be so suave that he risks committing the sin of mildness. If, like me, you think that the host of what’s basically a talk show (albeit a crazy funny one) should come across as a gentleman, should be super smart/funny and look good in a suit, well Trevor Noah may turn out to be the perfect pick indeed.


 “American airports – unlike airports anywhere else in the world, which have a certain level of joy and all-around happiness – no, American airports are like concentration camps. . . just people walking barefoot in single file.”

Parting Shot

There’s a commonly held wisdom about good comedy. It’s going to offend someone. If we look at comics such as Don Rickles, Sarah Silverman, Richard Pryor, Chris Rock, and Joan Rivers, among others, they could tell us a thing or two about insults and the double standards in the business which seem to dictate who may and may not wield certain types of jokes at certain types of groups. It goes like this: Unless you yourself are a member of the tribe, you’re not supposed to make derogatory jokes about the tribe. Usually but not Always. So on this sacred first day of Passover, when Trevor Noah is now being accused of – among other things – being an anti-Semite, does he get a hall pass because he’s one quarter Jewish on his South African mother’s side? Is this where we are?

I don’t claim to have any answers here. I just wish we could all take a deep breath and laugh without reservation . . . and without choosing to be offended.

Biographical Note: The Daily Mail has just published a massive, in-depth story with loads of photos and embedded videos about the often heartbreaking and harrowing life of Trevor Noah in the slums of Soweto. It details the circumstances of his mother and father’s ‘criminal’ relationship and covers the attempt on his mother’s life by Trevor’s violent stepfather, who brutally shot her in the face in 2009 and then threatened to kill Trevor. In fact, the ugly episode was a key reason the young comic came to the States, with his mother’s blessing, according to the article. It’s a fascinating read:


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