Trevor Noah: The Racist
Identity crisis makes for hilarious comedy
This article is from 2012.
It takes a particular kind of individual to get up on stage and open their soul to a room of strangers in order to achieve ratification for their existence. Part of that drive might come from the oft-cited routes about having learned to use humour to defeat the school bullies or to pursue a form of love and acceptance that was denied by one or both parents. But if some of our stand-ups ‘play’ at being the outsider, Trevor Noah is the real deal.
Growing up in apartheid South Africa, he had a black African mother and a white European father, leaving him to be deemed as an individual in limbo; as a mixed race child, he was viewed as being neither black nor white in a country where such categorisation could be a matter of life and death. The details of this upbringing left a mark on Noah as a man and shaped his worldview as a comic: how could it not when he was made to walk on the other side of the road from his parents and accompanied by a woman who looked more like him so as not to raise any questions from the authorities.
The story of The Racist is how he sought to define himself, in particular by looking towards America (where he made a triumphant appearance on The Tonight Show in January) only to find that the land of the free offered a whole new set of identity issues. All of which sounds like pretty arch fare for an hour of stand-up, but Noah is an assured presence and a class act with a raft of original insights (once he got past the chat about Scotland, that is). It’s a show that zips by and, cunningly, he leaves his crowd gagging for more with a storming finale of stomach-worrying hilarity.
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