Trevor Noah has become a household name since taking over “The Daily Show” almost four years ago.
The comedian, bestselling author, and TV host is on the cover of the new issue of The Hollywood Reporter; in the feature profile he discusses Donald Trump’s election, stepping into Jon Stewart’s shoes, and building a life in America.
Speaking about Trump’s election, Noah explains why he knew he was ready to confront America’s new political reality.
“I know what it’s like to live in a country that’s extremely divided by race — where people feel like it’s crashing every day and they don’t trust that their president has their best interests at heart,” the 35-year-old South African says. “And we joke about it not to minimize it but to try and heal the wounds. Where there’s no conflict, pain or tragedy, I don’t know what to do. I’m a horrible superfluous comic. If anything, I’m only trained in this.”
When he was auditioning for the “Daily Show” gig, Noah shared some interesting observations with the show’s producers.
“I won’t lie — when I watch the show, I don’t understand most of what’s going on,” he says he told them. “It’s very highbrow, and I don’t think there are enough international stories. So if you brought me on, the risk you’re taking is, I’m going to talk about international stories and I’m not going to try to make the show smarter than it is.”
Noah also insists on clearing up one of the biggest misconceptions about the fame he’s found in America.
“People don’t understand that I came to America from a country where I was really successful,” he says. “And I’m proud of South Africa because that’s where I made my fortune. I had my homes and my cars and my nice things, and my country gave that to me. So I wasn’t escaping anything. I’m here because I want to be here.”
A few years ago, Tweets resurfaced in which Noah made many bigoted, misogynistic and anti-Semitic jokes. He apologized for them at the time but addresses the controversy again in the THR interview.
“In many ways, social media and comedy are time stamps of who we were… and if you’re not disgusted by what you did when you look back five, 10 years ago, then I’d argue you haven’t grown. But we live in a society where people are more concerned with the platitudes of apologies than they are with the actual change in human being,” Noah says. “I just don’t think it’s healthy for us to berate and destroy people for who they were versus who they are because ‘are’ is more important. And that’s the problem I have with the ‘cancel culture’ a lot of the time — you condemn people to only being that forever. What’s the value of atoning if it doesn’t mean you’re welcomed back into society?”
As for his plans now that he’s established in the U.S., Noah is focused on the show above everything else, including the start of a family.
“I don’t want to have a child before I believe I want a child; I also don’t want to be in a position where I resent either the child or ‘The Daily Show’ for taking time from the other,” he says. “What I’ve come to realize is that life is not as urgent as you think it is. So for me, right now, it’s head down and grind, and I don’t feel guilty like I’m abandoning or deserting anybody because I’m single. My wife is ‘The Daily Show’.”