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Trevor Noah puts his and your Africanness first

Son of the African diaspora, Noah is deliberate about taking other black people with him as he ascends. Global names like Oprah, Beyonce and Dave Chapelle have also embraced his brand which is immersed in social justice
Fri, Oct 22, 2021

His story is well documented. As the perpetual other stateside, Trevor Noah very much still behaves like he just got off the boat despite six years as The Daily Show host, a couple of Netflix specials and hosting the Grammys. When royalty stepped into the Barclays Centre one June evening for a Brooklyn Nets game and gave him dap, the son of Patricia from Soweto lost his damn mind. Two Instagram posts earlier he is pictured outside a comedy club with Chris Rock and Dave Chapelle. But when Jay-Z and Beyonce acknowledged him from behind his mask, the game had changed. Noah recalled the moment:

“I’ve thought of every possible caption for this picture but really what can I write? You’re at the Brooklyn Nets game, the King of Brooklyn walks in with his wife Beyonce and then they both fist bump you. You try to act cool but then later you see a picture of the moment and you realise that this life is insane! What a privilege and magical moment to experience in life. And even though magic happens to me every day, I hope the little South African boy inside of me never stops reminding me that I’m living a dream.”

Perhaps travel and plying your trade at the highest level in foreign lands leaves one with an affinity for home – something Noah regularly reminds his American audience and guests on The Daily Show of. He has accomplished a lot, but he remains wary of his place as a black man (no longer mixed) and is what Americans refer to as African and not necessarily South African.

He could easily play celebrity and made man. But his is a performance of humility curated for the American public and their sensibilities. He regularly tackles American racism head-on through the veil of comedy, wherein his loveable nature means he is not necessarily threatening in the manner that the comedy of Paul Mooney or indeed Dave Chapelle would ruffle the feathers of the establishment. He is a devotee of liberal logic and equal justice which has endeared him to African Americans and Democrats alike.

Noah has also been deliberate in using his positionality as an African to put others on. Before conducting roll call, it is worth noting that when he first got the gig as host he brought along Ugandan/ South African comedian David Kibuuka to join his writing staff.

Let’s do roll call.

Davido. Thuso Mbedu. Nelson Makamo. Black Coffee. Nomzamo Mbatha. Lupita Nyong’o. Charlize Theron (does she count though?). Zozibini Tunzi. Burna Boy. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Danai Gurira. David Oyelewo. Barack Obama. And a million and one African Americans. He also created the 10 Black People Making History segment last year.

It is well documented that South Africa is plagued with the obsession of being the first black to do this and that. Some are hell-bent on being the only ones at the table and have no interest in bringing others on board unless they are agreeable lackeys with no interest in disrupting white supremacy and uplifting the black nation. Noah has made use of his position in every aspect and the composition of correspondents, producers, writers and production crew is a beautiful mix of talented black and minority men and women. On this matter, Noah subscribes to Toni Morrison’s school of thought. She once said:

“I tell my students, ‘When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else”.

Mama Oprah said he was a portal unto the black world at large when she was a guest on his show.

“What you do every night looks like a talk show, but what you are offering us is relief, a way to see ourselves differently. You offer us humour but it is a way in to see our culture, and that is bigger than a talk show.”

Props to you mfana wa ka Noah.