South African comedian Trevor Noah is a global phenomenon – for good reason.
WE all know that comedian Trevor Noah’s mother is black and his father, Swiss – he’s used this, and all the painful repercussions of the then-illegal relationship, as material for some of his stand-up routines: comedy as social critique.
In this extract from his autobiography, Born a Crime, he writes about his decision to move from the A class (of mostly white kids) to the B (mostly black) because he felt more at home there. The school counsellor cautioned him against it: ‘You do understand what you’re giving up? This will impact the opportunities you’ll have open to you for the rest of your life,’ she said at the time.
Now just 33, Trevor’s rise has been stratospheric. His stand-up comedy shows – The Daywalker, Crazy Normal, That’s Racist and It’s My Culture – were incisive, perceptive and truly funny, but it was when he replaced Jon Stewart as host of American news satire and talk show The Daily Show in 2015 that he was clearly poised for the big time. Late last year, he interviewed former president Barack Obama, and more than held his own. He’s very funny, but he’s also very smart – despite having ‘dropped’ to the B class.
BORN A CRIME BY TREVOR NOAH (PAN MACMILLAN)
As apartheid was coming to an end, South Africa’s elite private schools started accepting children of all colours. My mother’s company offered bursaries, scholarships, for underprivileged families, and she managed to get me into Maryvale College, an expensive private Catholic school. Classes taught by nuns. Mass on Fridays. The whole bit. I started preschool there when I was three, primary school when I was five.
In my class we had all kinds of kids. Black kids, white kids, Indian kids, coloured kids. Most of the white kids were pretty well off. Every child of colour pretty much wasn’t. But because of scholarships, we all sat at the same table. We wore the same maroon blazers, the same grey slacks and skirts. We had the same books. We had the same teachers. There was no racial separation. Every clique was racially mixed.
Kids still got teased and bullied, but it was over usual kid stuff: being fat or being skinny, being tall or being short, being smart or being dumb. I don’t remember anybody being teased about their race. I didn’t learn to put limits on what I was supposed to like or not like. I had a wide berth to explore myself. I had crushes on white girls. I had crushes on black girls. Nobody asked me what I was. I was Trevor.
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