Johannesburg - If anyone knows how comedian Trevor Noah is feeling right now, it has to be his 88-year-old grandmother Nomalizo Frances Noah.
“They can say whatever they want to say, but Trevor doesn’t care a hoot,” she said in response to the drubbing he received this week for making sexist and anti-Semitic jokes.
She had a warning for his detractors: “Beware, because all you are doing right now is providing him with more ideas for his jokes!
“He is going to take all your sarcasm and criticism, and turn them into jokes that will give you a stomach ache. This will make you see just how good this boy is.”
Nomalizo’s beaming face tells it all. She speaks to City Press in the kitchen of her renovated Orlando East home, a far cry from the three-room house Trevor grew up in. There are three shacks in the back yard, which she rents out. She sips orange squash and offers us hot cross buns.
Trevor’s most recent visit was just before Christmas.
“He was at the airport and remembered his granny, and that’s when he came by with a big box containing my gift. He turned to me and said: ‘Hey churchgoer, please don’t forget me in your prayers.’
“He didn’t know that I have never stopped praying for him.”
(A young Trevor Noah. Lucky Nxumalo, City Press)
Trevor’s request and reference to church reminded her of something else. “There was a time when I did not like the idea of him telling jokes for a living. He said to me: ‘But Granny, why do you love going to church so much? It’s because you love it, so leave me to do what I love.’”
Trevor’s favourite thing in her kitchen is her 1970s Jewel 202 coal stove.
“Trevor spent a number of winters in front of this stove and he loves it. He’s asked me many times not to sell this stove and I don’t intend to.”
Trevor lived with her during his early childhood. His mother, Patricia, took him to live with her when he started school.
“He was a very mischievous but lovely boy who nearly drove me insane half the time,” Nomalizo says.
“I gave him a hiding almost daily and every time I thought I had my grip to smack his bum, he would escape and stand a few metres away and start his favourite game.
“Tiptoeing around and laughing he would say: ‘Ooh Granny, catch me if you can. You just brushed my bum, you did not really slap me,’” she said.
“I would stand there helpless, knowing I can’t run after this tiny, highly energetic young boy. In the end, I would just laugh and we’d become friends again.
“He used to dig under a locked gate, slither through and once in the streets, children would run away when they saw him and his light complexion. They would scream ‘Lekgoa! Lekgoa!’ [European!] and Trevor would run after them clearly enjoying this. Others mocked him and called him an albino, but he didn’t care,” she added.
Nomalizo speaks of Trevor’s father, a Swiss man she calls Robert. He wanted to marry her daughter, but she refused.
“I didn’t support the idea of Robert marrying Patricia because apartheid laws were against black-white marriages. My main worry was that once married, he would take Trevor and his mother to Switzerland, or elsewhere where there was no apartheid and I didn’t want them to move.
“I am glad they stayed in South Africa so I had a chance to contribute to raising my grandson. And here I am today celebrating his success,” she said.
She won’t say what happened to his father, or where he is now.
Nomalizo didn’t understand at first when she was told about her grandson’s new job on The Daily Show.
“Then they told me he was going to be seen not only in Africa, but almost the whole world. I was ecstatic and just like him my spirit will not be dampened by those filled with less regard for Africans,” she said.
“I am on Trevor’s side … This is what he loves the most.”
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