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With the death of Nelson Mandela last week, comedian Trevor Noah (pictured) had this to say on Twitter: “@Trevornoah Nelson Mandela – One of the funniest and most amazing human beings I’ve ever met. We celebrate your life! #VivaMandela.”
If you have seen some of Noah’s earliest works you’ll know he did a very interesting Mandela impersonation. In most cases it was so good an impersonation few people would remember the actual joke.
Seeing Noah for the first time a few years ago at the Pretoria State University, I was in stitches all night as he told the story of his upbringing.
With a Xhosa mother, the comedian found a satirical way to regale audiences with tales of his upbringing, something that has garnered him fame him all over the world. It is similar to the way Chris Rock cashed in on his younger days by making the hit sitcom, Everybody Hates Chris.
Now based in Los Angeles, Noah is making a killing doing stand-up shows with most of his European and American shows sold out before he even sets a foot inside the respective venues.
On meeting comedian Chris Spencer in Los Angeles earlier in the year, the first thing Spencer asked when he heard I’d flown in from Joburg was if I knew Noah. This was during one of Madiba’s hospital stays and the topic only came up after Spencer explained that he and Noah were good friends.
Persevering after what appeared to be a failed acting career to presenting TV shows like The Real Goboza and emceeing work, there was nothing that prepared us for the rise of Noah.
Granted, he did well on the South African comedy circuit, but with the likes of David Kau and Loyiso Gola also competing for audiences, very little evidence suggested that the comedian would go far. But he did.
After clinching what appeared to be a huge advertising deal with Cell-C, Noah was financially set and he used that clout to fund his move to the expensive US to see if he could make it there, too. Let’s face it, anyone can go to the US, and many have, but few people really crack the acting or comedy industries.
But just like a joke, Noah rose up the ranks and surprised South Africans when he announced that he would appear on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. He did his skit, which mocked Americans, and it was an instant hit. It was only natural that the next stop would be on The Late Show With David Letterman.
With such achievements under his belt, it was only a matter of time before Will and Jada Smith’s production company, Overbrook Entertainment, would take a liking to him. Overbrook teamed up with Legendary Television who has commissioned a sitcom based on Noah’s experience growing up in Soweto as the son of a Swiss father and South African mother.
The show will be sold to Fox TV and will no doubt increase the South African’s profile in the US. Sameer Gardeezi has been commissioned to be the scriptwriter of the yet untitled project.
And they say dreams don’t come true.