5 Things You Need to Know About The Daily Show's Trevor Noah
Here's your crash course in the comedian who is about to take over the Comedy Central tentpole
When Trevor Noah makes his highly anticipated debut as host of The Daily Show on Monday night, the 31-year-old has the seemingly impossible task of earning the trust of the series’ dedicated fans following Jon Stewart‘s 16-year tenure at the desk.
Since Noah appeared just three times as a Daily Show correspondent before Comedy Central announced his promotion, we’ve picked five things about the fake newsman that will make you confident in his anchor abilities.
1. He speaks more languages than you.
The South African-born star has a lot more than comedic talent going on in his head. Noah has said he speaks eight languages including German, Xhosa, Zulu, Sotho and Afrikaans. Nailing that many languages was not all smooth sailing for Noah, who told Interview that he displayed a disturbing likeness to a certain genocidal fascist when he first started studying his father’s language.
“I genuinely had a very Hitler-ish accent when I spoke German,” he told the magazine. “I spoke it with too much conviction. Then I found out I [sounded] distinctly Hitler-ish and that’s something that I’ve had to learn to change over time. But there are still moments where I say things that make German people go, ‘Oh, that makes me a bit uncomfortable.'”
Noah has made use of his struggle to learn German – and his resulting “Hitler vibes” – in his stand-up routine.
2. His mother’s ex was convicted of trying to kill her.
Noah saw more than his fair share of hardship growing up in Apartheid-era South Africa. The relationship between his parents, a black South African woman named Patricia and a white Swiss man named Robert, was forbidden by law. Noah’s mother was jailed multiple times and ordered to pay fines because of the romance.
Tragically, Noah’s mother wasn’t free from danger by the time he reached adulthood. After splitting with Noah’s father, Patricia married and then divorced a violent, abusive man. In 2009, Noah’s former stepfather shot her in the face and back in a horrific attack. The man was charged with attempted murder and entered a guilty plea. Noah was an exemplary son during the ordeal: Patricia told the Daily Mail that he paid for her care at a private hospital and that he was “by my bedside holding my hand the whole time.”
3. He starred in a soap opera as a teen.
Long before nabbing one of the most coveted jobs in comedy, Noah paid the bills doing a very different kind of performing. At 18, he was cast in the South African soap opera Isidingo. Unlike his Daily Show gig, the Isidingo spot was less than exciting for Noah, who recounted falling into the role for Stuff: New Zealand.
“I always wanted to be an extra on TV because I thought it would be a great job. You don’t have to learn lines,” he said. “I stumbled on to the set one day by mistake and I got cast in a role on a soap opera, which I hated because then I had to remember lines. I played a gangster which is totally not me.”
4. He has an extensive hosting background.
He may seem like a newbie to American audiences, but Noah has played host many times in his native South Africa. He’s been at the reins of game show The Amazing Date, the educational program Run the Adventure, the gossip show The Real Goboza and even had his own talk show, Tonight with Trevor Noah. As a teen, Noah lead his own radio show called Noah’s Ark.
When he caught a break from hosting in 2008, Noah decided to compete on South Africa’s franchise of Strictly Come Dancing, the international version of Dancing with the Stars. Unfortunately, video evidence of Noah’s second-place finish is scarce. But the new Daily Show anchor did explain why he hopped on the chance to Mamba Online: “It was an opportunity to step out of my comfort zone and just have fun. Plus those pants make my ass look good!”
5. You can watch a documentary about his early comedy career.
In 2009, a film crew followed Noah as he prepared to debut his first ever one-man show in Johannesburg. The subsequent film, You Laugh but It’s True, was released in 2011. Now available on Netflix, the compelling documentary gives insight into the challenges Noah faced as an unknown comedian in a country still grappling with the racial tensions of its recent past.
“As someone who has only been doing comedy for just over two years I think I’m very far from even calling myself a good comedian. I’m just okay for now,” Noah, then 25, says in the film.
Safe to say that Noah is doing slightly better than “okay” these days.
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The Daily Show With Trevor Noah
premieres Monday at 11 p.m. ET on Comedy Central.