South African comedian Trevor Noah officially took over Sept. 28 as the new host of “The Daily Show” with the blessing of former host of 15 years, Jon Stewart. The rising star was given the opportunity to host when he was selected by Stewart as his heir, and on Monday night he showed the world why he was given the trust of the 52-year-old comedian, writer, producer, director, actor, media critic, and former television host.
Here are 15 things you may not have known about Trevor Noah.
Sources: Edition.CNN.com, Channel24.co.za, InterviewMagazine.com, ComedyCentralAfrica.com, TimesLive.co.za, CityPress.co.za, Channel24.co.za, You.co.za, YouthVillage.co.za
This is an updated version of a slideshow that was originally published Dec. 17, 2014. Peter Pedroncelli contributed to this report.
The anticipation that surrounded the 31-year-old’s appointment as Daily Show host and the eagerness for critics and fans alike to see how he would do was electrifying, but the comedian showed no sign of nerves and delivered an excellent first show which was positively received by those who commented on social media, as well as the media.
Twitter was alive with praise for the South African’s show, commenting on how he made it his own and flawlessly understood his audience. USA Today tweeted: “Trevor Noah’s smile is downright infectious. We’re saying it now. #DailyShow.”
The Wrap also had kind words for the rookie host, saying, “Trevor Noah opened his first Daily Show with a perfect mix of funny and poignant remarks. The South African comic charmed, scored belly laughs and paid homage to his predecessor with just his few minutes on the air.”
They say that understanding a person’s language allows you an insight into their culture, and if this is true, then Noah is clearly able to furnish his comedy with a unique understanding of various cultures.
Due to his interesting upbringing in South Africa, Noah learned to speak six of the country’s eleven official languages: English, Afrikaans, Zulu, Xhosa, Tswana and Tsonga. In addition to these, he learned to speak German from his Swiss father, allowing him to become multi-lingual.
Thirteen years ago, when the comedian was 18 years old, he had a small role in a very popular South African soap opera which airs on public broadcaster SABC. The show, Isidingo, still runs on South African television today, and is now able to count Trevor Noah as one of their past actors, even if his role was minor at the time.
The comedian is scared of wasting people’s time. “My number one fear is that I will waste people’s time. I never want to waste people’s time whether it’s in a conversation or at my show. I just don’t want to waste people’s time. We’ve all done things where we just go: that was a waste of time. I want people to go wow I’m really glad I spent time with that guy. That was really cool,” he revealed.
Noah’s parents met in South Africa during a time that inter-racial relationships were still illegal in the apartheid country while taking part in an underground movement that had get-togethers which allowed people to mix and mingle with people of other races.
He often references the fact that he was “born a crime” in his shows, and talks about his parents’ irreverence for the law. “My mom would be arrested, she would be fined and still she was like, ‘ooh, I don’t care, I want a white man, ooh!’,” he jokes.
Due to the law at the time, Noah’s inter-racial family could not be seen together in public without being fined. He has no dearth of material when it comes to this as well: “In the streets, my father couldn’t walk with us – he would walk on the other side of the road and wave at me – like a creepy pedophile.”
So much of Noah’s shows come from his life experience, that he doesn’t write down his material. Rather, he focuses on stories that are of importance to him, and develops his own humorous take on them. He also prefers to walk directly off the street and onto the stage, rather than spend time backstage, so as to see the audience as his friends.
As he grew his international career, Noah spent a year living in the United States. During that time, he made an appearance on “The Tonight Show” with Jay Leno, becoming the first African to do so. Little did he know at the time, that he would eventually raise his own profile to the point where he would be a host of a massive nightly institution in the US.
Following his appearance on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” on December 6, 2014, Comedy Central announced that Noah would be joining the show’s team of contributors. He joined the ranks of current contributors Samantha Bee, Jason Jones, Jessica Williams, and others, as well as former news team members Stephen Colbert, Steve Carell, John Oliver, and more. Once Jon Stewart made the decision to leave the show after 15 years, he was adamant that he wanted Noah as his successor.
As we know, Noah speaks six of South Africa’s eleven official languages, and German, but has also been become known for his talent with accents. When asked about it, he replied, “We’ve got so many different cultural groups in my family that I’ve had to learn to accommodate them in different ways…Everybody speaks different, so you find you start tweaking your language to be more accessible to people.”
Noah’s rising popularity is evident in the fact that he has sold more DVDs than any other stand-up comedian on the African continent. He is also the star and subject of the award-winning film, “Township to the Stage,” which tracks the story of his career in South Africa.
As one of the most popular comedians in the country, he also sells out shows on a regular basis, but with his new role on the Daily Show, he may not be able to make trips back to SA as often as his fans would like.
Noah has been known for his privacy when it comes to personal affairs, so fans were thrilled when he posted pictures to Instagram of him and his girlfriend, Dani Gabriel in 2014.
Noah has stayed true to his South African roots, and loves to return to his home country as often as possible. He has been open about wanting to remain a comedian from South Africa in the world, “I will stay in places for a bit here and there and pop into New York for a while, maybe stay in London for a year, but my home will always be South Africa. I enjoy it too much.”
Ngisaveni Shingange, Noah’s former stepfather, was found guilty in March 2012 for the attempted murder of his ex-wife and Noah’s mother, Nombuyiselo Noah. In court papers, Nombuyiselo documented years of abuse at Shingange’s hands, as well as the incident in which he shot her in the back and face after she became engaged to her current husband in 2009 (they were divorced in 1996). Shingange also threatened to kill Trevor, after he confronted him following the attack.
Following Noah’s appearance on “The Tonight Show,” Noah’s mother was called for comment and responded, “Ufun’ ukuthetha ngezinto zasecawini [Do you want to talk church matters]? No, unless you want to talk about izinto zasecawini, I know nothing. Not at all. I have not even watched one movie or show, and I know nothing about his life. I’m strictly into God’s things – not interested in Trevor’s things.”
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