If you’ve never seen this man perform, the clips below will let you see just why he was tapped to be Jon Stewart’s replacement on The Daily Show, the clips following this article will allow you to see why he was chosen to replace Stewart.
In December, when The Daily Show introduced its newest correspondent, Trevor Noah, audiences did not realize they were meeting Jon Stewart’s eventual replacement as host. Many Americans likely did not know him at all.
Comedy Central, which is appointing Noah to take over as The Daily Show‘s new host, is banking that Americans will not only forgive Noah for being quite different from Stewart, but will come to love the comedy style that has already earned him a large following abroad.
What follows is a brief introduction to Noah, as well as to some of the work that has made him so popular and that will make his tenure at The Daily Show a fresh and perhaps invaluable contribution to how we talk — and joke — about race and nationality.
The one clip that shows what makes Trevor Noah great
Watching this bit from Noah’s 2013 show in London, where he talks about his upbringing and about coming to America for the first time, is by far the best way to understand his comedy and what makes it both great and potentially perfect for The Daily Show.
Noah, in just a few minutes, jokes about being a South African, about growing up during apartheid, and about having a white father and a black mother, all of which then becomes the lens through which he — and his audience — see the US for the first time. (He also does the greatest Adolf Hitler impression I have ever heard.)
As a foreigner, someone with no stake in American racial identities, Noah’s different perspective lets him talk about American racial issues as the hapless but curious outsider. He uses this to wonderful effect in the above clip (about three minutes in) when he anticipates how when he comes to the US, he’ll be treated as simply black rather than as “mixed” or “colored” as he was in South Africa. “I’m gonna get a piece of that black,” he says.
Noah riffs at length about issues of race and identity, topics that are not exactly new to American comedy, using his personal background as the premise. It’s less threatening because he doesn’t have as much of a personal stake. And he’s looking at American issues from a totally different angle. That allows his viewers to see them from a totally different angle, and that’s powerful.
You’ll also notice something: the more Noah wades into his personal history or into highly sensitive issues (what could be more sensitive than the legacy of apartheid?), the lighter his comedic style becomes. He gets sillier and more self-effacing, and the audience responds by letting its guard down. That’s been essential for allowing Noah to take on such thorny topics, and it’ll be even more important for him as he takes over The Daily Show‘s now-institutionalized platform for satirical political commentary.
Teasing Americans as a foreigner could help them see what they otherwise might not
Continue reading and viewing more clips here…