Trevor Noah has been hailed as SA’s next big export, with comparisons to Mandela and Charlize Theron, writes Sihle Mlambo.
Durban - FOR a man who doesn’t even have his picture on a Wikipedia page dedicated to him, Trevor Noah sure has hit the big time with the news of him taking over as the next anchor of the US hit comedy show The Daily Show.
Noah has been hailed as the next big South African export to hit the US, with comparisons to Nelson Mandela and award-winning actress Charlize Theron being made by social commentators.
Of course Mandela never lived in the US of A, but not since him or Theron has a South African made a bigger impact there, so it was not too surprising that most Americans and some Brits asked the question – “who is Trevor Noah?”
But it has been a long road for Noah who for some time became the face of Cell C’s new corporate image as they switched their colours from red to black.
In a humorous ad campaign which stretched from TV and print to radio, he became known as Cell C’s CEO – that’s customer experience officer.
All this after he moaned in one of his skits about the poor network reception that SA telecommunications were offering.
The You Laugh But It’s True stand-up comic has hit the heights of a 13-year career and is the first black man to anchor The Daily Show.
He was already the first South African comedian to appear on the prime time show when he made his debut late last year.
Noah recently turned 31. In the past decade, he has done almost everything in entertainment, from acting, radio presenting, stand-up comedy – locally and abroad – to a brief stint as Cell C’s brand ambassador and securing his own self-titled show, on DStv’s Mzansi Magic channel.
In December he made his first of three appearances on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and made an impressive debut – pointing out to Americans how little they knew about Africa.
In a quick game titled “Spot the Africa”, he depicted images of poor infrastructure that ordinarily Americans would expect to be in Africa, not knowing that the good part was actually in Africa and the bad in their backyard.
According to the entertainment blog, tvsa.co.za, Noah got his breakthrough into the entertainment world as an actor on SABC3’s soap opera Isidingo in a cameo role in 2002 – needless to say, not many people will remember that.
He went on to do a graveyard show (12am-3am) on Yfm called Noah’s Ark before he started getting into comedy at about the same time.
Gigs at the SABC followed with gossip show Real Goboza and a sports centred-show, Siyadlala.
He then put on his dancing shoes for SABC’s Strictly Come Dancing in 2008 and was runner-up in that season. Then a dating show followed, which he hosted with Pabi Moloi, titled The Amazing Date.
He bagged MC slots for the SA Film Television Awards and the SA Music Awards for two consecutive years, proving to be quite the man.
He then began his road to The Daily Show with a local version on M-Net and Mzansi Magic, which was called Tonight with Trevor Noah.
All this in between numerous tours around the world with his stand-up comedy shows Daywalker, The Racist, You Laugh But It’s True and the latest offering, which was released yesterday on DVD, The Nation Wild.
If you’ve seen any of his racially-but-humourously charged stand-up comedy sets, you will know he is a biracial South African born from a Xhosa mother, Patricia, and a “chocolate loving” Swiss-German father, Robert.
Yes, he actually said that in one of his DVDs about his father.
He was born and raised in Soweto and because of apartheid grew up apart from his father for years as it was illegal to have interracial relationships. He has said in the past that his mother was arrested for his birth and had to pay a fine.
“After his stint on the Isidingo show he spent two years hosting an educational show for SABC2, during which time he started hosting his own radio show on Yfm called Noah’s Ark,” his bio reads on TVSA.
TVSA rates him as an 8.5/10 entertainer, which isn’t too bad.
International magazine Rolling Stone said the move by Comedy Central could prove to be a stroke of genius.
In an article titled Why Hiring Trevor Noah Is A Great Choice For The Daily Show, Tim Grierson noted on his selection:
“It’s probably a good thing a lot of us don’t know too much about Trevor Noah. If we did, we’d know what to expect from him, already feel comfortable with his humour and his politics.
“Jon Stewart was around (before joining The Daily Show); Noah has not been. And that creates plenty of opportunity for us to learn about him – and, in the process of the new iteration of The Daily Show, perhaps learn something about ourselves, too,” he noted.
And naturally social media blew up on Monday as South Africans shared their delight at the news of Noah, which was quickly followed by some hilarious tongue-in-cheek comments by some of his comedian colleagues.
One such tweet came from Deep Fried Man, a comedian who appears regularly on Loyiso Gola’s Late Nite News on e.tv, who tweeted:
“Trevor Noah is destined to be the first South African to get on to the cover of @Forbes without the help of Photoshop”.
The tweet was seen as an obvious below-the-belt remark in the light of DJ Sbu’s recent fake Forbes Africa front cover with his energy drink, Mo Faya – which he has been using to garner publicity as he tackles international energy drink producers.
But politicians chipped in as well.
Democratic Alliance MP, Phumzile van Damme, in an e-mail bearing a very large headline, wrote emphatically “Congratulations, Trevor Noah!”
“This will be the the first time an African comedian hosts the show. This is a big achievement not only for South Africa but the continent,” Van Damme gushed.
“At just 31, Trevor Noah continues to fly the South African flag high and is an inspiration to young South Africans that through hard work and dedication, dreams do come true.”
Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa hailed Noah as a gifted young artist. He would know. In his former job as police minister, he (or his department) came in for wrath in one of Noah’s hilarious re-enactments of the failure of the police to carry out their jobs in the Daywalker stand-up routine.
“Trevor Noah is a highly gifted young artist who epitomises artistic freedom of expression and its role in social cohesion. No doubt this is a big global development for Mr Noah’s career,” Mthethwa said.
“Above all, Noah’s achievement makes a resounding statement that South Africa has the artistic talent of international stature and calibre. We wish to congratulate Noah on this significant achievement.
“In fact, he has helped our country and its people to find healing, including through laughing at themselves.
“South Africa is a microcosm of the world and there is no doubt that a global audience will find resonance in his humour,” gushed the minister.
But the usually vocal and eloquent Noah did not say much on his social media channels yesterday on the announcement, preferring to retweet a few mega comedy stars like Chris Rock – which read “Thank You President Obama” with a picture of a smiling Trevor Noah attached.
Trevor himself took a stance that can only be described as being politically correct and tweeted on his megastar account with 2.2 million followers from around the world:
“No one can replace Jon Stewart. But together with the amazing team at The Daily Show, we will continue to make this the best damn news show!”