Trevor Noah: Biography and Career

Trevor Noah Is a comedian, actor and presenter of South African television and radio. He became a famous character in South Africa from 2002 when he participated in a telenovela called Isidingo. But it really was in 2015 when he jumped to international stardom by replacing John Stewart as host of the popular show 'The Daily Show' at Comedy Central.

In his short career as a comedian, he has an extensive number of television shows, most of them live comedy, or as they are popularly known: stand-up specials.


He has also participated in a couple of films, one of them a documentary in which he represented himself. In 2016 he published Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood, a book that compiles 18 personal stories about his life in South Africa.

Apartheid in your life

Trevor Noah was born on February 20, 1984 in Soweto, an urban area south-west of Johannesburg, South Africa. It was the years of apartheid, the system of racial segregation in South Africa and Namibia, which was then part of South Africa.

In 1949 a law prohibited interracial marriages. In addition, sexual intercourse between individuals of different races was a crime punishable by a fine and five years in prison. This situation affected the life of Noah, since his parents did not belong to the same race.

His mother, Patricia Nombuyiselo Noah, was of Xhosa descent, a South African ethnic group. His father, Robert, was a target of Swiss-German descent. Although their union was illegal, the couple maintained their relationship for a while.

Being the living proof of his parents' indiscretion, Trevor remained locked in the house for the first few years of his life. His mother had taken extreme, even absurd, measures to hide him from the government, which could have stolen him at any moment.

However, not everything could be kept hidden. Trevor's mother was sent to jail and fined by the white minority government in South Africa. His father later returned to Switzerland. The now comedian was raised by his maternal grandmother and his mother, who was released when changes in the South African government began, leading to the elimination of apartheid.

Your relationship with religion

Trevor's story is that of a mischievous boy who becomes a restless young man. While this was happening he was trying to find a place in a world where he was not supposed to have existed.

The comedian grew up in a religious environment where he attended three churches every Sunday. Trevor's mother was very religious and felt that each of these churches brought something different to her life.

Mother and son started the day in a"jubilant"mixed race church that had a former bodybuilder as pastor. As Trevor himself wrote in his book Born to Crime, the music in this temple was a contemporary Christian rock and the lyrics were displayed on a karaoke-like screen.

After that, they visited an"analytical"white church. There the young man attended Sunday school and was captivated with the stories of the Bible. As he confessed, he was very good at doing the exams and in fact still remembers some quotations from the Old Testament and from the Gospels. Finally, Trevor and his mother ended their day in a passionate black church where the religious service could last between three and four hours.

His personal life

Noah is polyglot. He speaks several languages ​​including English, Afrikaans, Xhosa, Zulu, Sesotho and German. It is worth noting that the young man was raised speaking English as his first language. Her mother made the decision deliberately, since she thought that in this way she could have more opportunities in the future.

According to Trevor in one of the stories included in his book, his mother told him that being black in South Africa, speaking English was the only thing that could give him an advantage. He always said that English was the language of money and that talking about it was what would make the difference between getting a job or running out of it.

Apparently her mother had always thought of offering her son the best tools to succeed in life. She even thought about giving him her name. He called it Trevor because that was just a name that meant nothing.

In Xhosa families it is a tradition to give children a name with deep meaning, which are almost destined to become a reality. The name of the comedian's mother, for example, means"she who gives". And he describes her as a person who is constantly helping the people around him.

Therefore, when the child was born, she called him Trevor precisely because in South Africa it had no meaning. She wanted her son to have no designated destination, to be free to go wherever she wanted. That he had the freedom to do and be anything.

Noah studied at Maryvale College, a Catholic school in Johannesburg. In his high school years, the comedian created a small business that brought him some profit. He dedicated himself to reselling and delivering food from a local store to his companions during break time, thus avoiding long queues to buy while he made a profit.

Thanks to this he began to move throughout the school, mixing with different groups but without being completely included in any circle. Soon it was dedicated to sell CDs copied of mixtures of music and videojuegos using the network that had created for the delivery of food.

His career as a comedian

In 2002, at the age of 18, Noah got his first opportunity in show business with a starring role in a South African soap opera called Isidingo.

After that he began to animate his own radio show called Noah's Ark on the YFM youth radio station in Gauteng province. However, it seems that this world was not the young man's, as he decided to leave his radio program as well as acting to focus on comedy.

He was introduced to important South African comedians such as David Kau, Darren Simpson, Kagiso Lediga, Barry Hilton, Riaad Moosa, Marc Lottering and Nik Rabinowitz, as well as international performers Paul Rodriguez, Dan Ilic, Carl Barron and Paul Zerdin. He also opened shows for American comedian Gabriel Iglesias as well as for Russell Peters on his South African tour.

From 2004 to 2006, Noah conducted the Run The Adventure educational program on the SABC 2 television channel. In 2007, he conducted a gossip program called The Real Goboza on the SABC 1 channel, as well as Siyadlala, a sports program that aired on SABC.

For 2008, he became with Pabi Moloi, the conductor of The Amazing Date, a program of dating games. That same year was one of the participants of season 4 of the dance program Strictly Come Dancing.

By that time, Trevor Noah already had a run on national television. And 2009 became the year that would open the door to international success. That year the comedian directed his own show called The Daywalker, which was also filmed as a documentary.

Another great work of that year was the conduction of the third edition of the South Africa Film and Television Awards, well-known also like Prizes SAFTAs. He was also co-host with Eugene Khoza of The Ax Sweet Life, a reality reality show.

In 2010 came a new opportunity to be noticed at the international level. He became the host of the 16th annual South African Music Awards. Between 2010 and 2011 he also worked on the Tonight with Trevor Noah show, a 26 episode show presented, directed and written by himself.

The comedian also toured all over South Africa performing at shows such as The Blacks Only Comedy Show, Vodacom Campus Comedy Tour, Heavyweight Comedy Jam, Cape Town International Comedy Festival, Jozi Comedy Festival and Bafunny Bafunny. His stand-up comedy specials in South Africa include The Daywalker (2009), Crazy Normal (2011), That's Racist (2012) and It's My Culture (2013).

His promotion as an international stand-up comedian

Although Trevor already had a fairly solid comedy career in his country, in 2011 he decided to move to the United States. This decision took him to the best stage of his career. But the reasons for leaving Johannesburg were not the best.

In 1992 his mother married a man named Ngisaveni Shingange, a marriage from which two children were born. The couple divorced in 1996, but in 2009 when Trevor's mother made a commitment to Sfiso Khoza, Shingange retaliated by shooting her in the back and face.

He just stopped because the gun got stuck. Fortunately, he survived. However, when the comedian confronted him, the man threatened to kill him. This forced Trevor to leave the country to reside in Los Angeles. For 2011, Shingange was convicted of attempted murder.

Despite this tragic episode, his arrival in the United States was the beginning of his true success as a comedian. In January 2012, Noah became the first South African stand-up comedian to appear on The Tonight Show. And in May 2013 was also the first of his to appear on the show Late Show with David Letterman.

From that moment, the opportunities did not stop for Noah. He performed various stand-up specials and became a major comedian on the famous comedy channel Comedy Central. Among his comedy programs are the documentary You Laugh But It's True, Trevor Noah: The Racist, That's Racist. Comedy Central Roast of Steve Hofmeyr, Trevor Noah: African American, Trevor Noah: It's My Culture, among many others.

Speaking of his influences, Trevor Noah asserts that Richard Pryor and Bill Cosby are the undisputed kings of comedy. But he confesses that he did not know who they were before they began in that world.

He has indicated that it was Eddie Murphy who changed his view on comedy and whom he definitely qualifies as an influence on his career. He also names Chris Rock, in terms of modern comedians, and Dave Chappelle. He has confessed that it was these characters who have really left a mark on him.

The Daily Show, Your Big Chance

At 32, Trevor Noah already has a long career in the world of comedy and a quite successful addition. However, despite all these achievements, perhaps the greatest of all achieved in 2015. In February of that year John Stewart announced that he would leave The Daily Show. And the month of March was revealed that it would be the South African comedian that would replace the famous presenter.

Noah had appeared as a contributor to the show three times. But when the news was announced, many wondered what would be the course of the show now that a younger international host would take over. And these questions followed the controversy.

A group of people focused on some jokes that the comedian had done on his Twitter account. According to these, Trevor's publications were considered offensive to women and to the Jewish community. And among the rumors that started against the presenter, it was also said that he could have stolen some of his stand-up routines from other comedians.

In response to their detractors, Trevor said they could not reduce their point of view to a couple of jokes. And he assured that this was not a reflection of his character nor of his evolution as a comedian.

Also, since Comedy Central supported the presenter saying that like all comedians, Trevor Noah reaches the limits, is provocative and does not forgive anyone, not even himself.

The television network said it was not fair to judge him for a couple of jokes and that the young man was a talented comedian with a great future at Comedy Central. Finally The Daily Show With Trevor Noah made his debut in September 2015 with comedian Kevin Hart as the first guest.

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