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The dark side of Trevor Noah

2009-11-06 17:27

Everyone’s always calling new, young stand-up talents "The fresh face of the new South Africa". The truth is there are many fresh faces out there, all featured along with some old ones in a new series of one-hour live comedy films being shown by Nu Metro in cinemas.

Trevor Noah is one of the freshest, and one of the best known faces on the South African entertainment scene. We got him on the phone for a serious talk.

What's he really like?

Like most comedians – and possibly all the best ones – Trevor sees himself as an outsider. You wouldn’t think - seeing his gentle way of coaxing laughs out of his audience even when tackling the contentious South African landscape – that as a kid, he was always in trouble at school. "I think now when you say it’s your job they don’t give you flak. I should have thought of that at the time." And when he runs into the teachers now, what does he say to them? "Told you so."

He’s softly spoken and speaks only when spoken to in the interview, considering his words carefully, like the guy you dream of taking home to meet Mama.

Touring the world

Trevor’s recently performed in top clubs in America and the UK. His comedy routines (no, he doesn't make it up as he goes along) tackle mainly South African topics. You wouldn’t expect that to work everywhere in the world, but Trevor says he just tells our stories from a South African’s point of view. "At the end of the day it’s a conversation, you know? People are people so… I really just try and have a conversation with the audience and try and just get the message across."

The crime, the crime

How does he react when someone steals his comedy routines? “As a good friend (and fellow comedian) Martin Jonas said to me 'imitation is the greatest form of flattery'. So if someone takes my material I just take it, and then I just try and think of something else. And try and more and more stuff that nobody else can do. That’s what it really boils down to."


Gory details, please. "First night in the UK. That was terrible. First time ever performing out of the country. That was… wow. I mentioned Chelsea in a place that supports… I don’t know… one of the other teams. And the booing that ensued was just horrible. Horrible and traumatic. But it made me a stronger person."

Fame and groupies

"Well, I don’t really roll with groupies hey, you know. I’m just so scared. I just never know what’s gonna happen and I get freaked out by these things. It’s like I don’t like reading about myself in the papers so I just try and stay away from all situations that might lead to that."

Mental health

"I’m very unbalanced. I’m a recluse of note. I can spend weeks away from human beings. I live in my head so… people who know me, know me, and people who don’t know me can mistake it for arrogance – they just don’t understand it. And that’s just who we are. You’re a comic, at the end of the day, because you don’t view the world the way that everybody else does. You live in this world that you think is extremely crazy, while everyone acts like it’s normal. And sometimes it gets to you. I can be extremely anti-social, but I get along with myself very well."

If you could roast any celeb live on TV, who would you do?

I’m horrible at insulting somebody on the spot. I’m not that kind of comic. That’s why I don’t even do it to audiences.

After the Hour

Trevor’s hilarious one-hour set, which suffers from boring camera work and a lack of close-ups, but is still the second best way to spend an hour in the dark, is screening at Nu Metro cinemas. With an hour of comedy out there in The Daywalker, what are Trevor’s plans for the next few months?

"Back to the grind. Back to the clubs. Back to being a humble comic with no new material again. I foresee a lot of death in my future. A lot of silenced audiences and people wondering how I got to where I got to. A lot of humbling experiences. And then hopefully in not too long, I’ll be back with another show."

* Trevor Noah: The Daywalker is currently playing at Nu Metro cinemas every Thursday evening, until 26 November, as part of the Nu Metro Podium Comedy series.
What makes South Africa’s hottest, most sought-after comedian tick? And why is he so preoccupied with death? We get under his skin...

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