In the ever-evolving world of comedy and social commentary, few individuals have made as much of an impact as Trevor Noah. From his humble beginnings in South Africa to his rise as one of the most influential voices in late-night television, Noah has captivated audiences around the globe with his unique blend of wit, intelligence, and undeniable charm.
In “Born a Crime,” Trevor shares his experiences growing up in Soweto, Johannesburg, where he navigated the complexities of racial segregation and apartheid laws. He recounts his childhood adventures, cultural clashes, and the resilience he developed while facing various struggles. With humor, wit, and honesty, Trevor sheds light on the harsh realities of apartheid, sharing personal anecdotes that are both heartwarming and thought-provoking.
Beyond his remarkable talents as a comedian, Noah’s interviews offer a glimpse into the depths of his intellect and curiosity. He possesses a remarkable ability to connect with people from all walks of life, allowing for candid and enlightening conversations that go beyond mere surface-level banter. Whether it’s engaging with politicians, celebrities, or everyday heroes, Noah’s genuine interest in understanding different perspectives shines through, creating an atmosphere of openness and authenticity.
In the following interview, we had the privilege of delving into Trevor Noah’s mind, exploring his journey, his approach to comedy, and the impact he hopes to make on the world. Join us as we uncover the layers of this extraordinary individual and discover what makes him one of the most captivating interviewees of our time.
Who is Trevor Noah?
Trevor Noah is a renowned South African comedian, television host, and political commentator who has made a significant impact on the world of comedy. Born on February 20, 1984, in Johannesburg, South Africa, Noah’s unique perspective, sharp wit, and intelligent humor have earned him global recognition.
Noah’s journey to success was marked by adversity and resilience. Growing up during the final years of apartheid, he navigated the complexities of a racially divided society. His mixed-race heritage (his mother is of Xhosa heritage, while his father is Swiss-German) gave him a distinctive perspective on racial issues, which he later incorporated into his comedy.
Trevor Noah’s contributions extend far beyond the realm of comedy. He has used his platform to advocate for social justice, frequently addressing topics such as racial inequality, immigration, and political corruption. Through his humor and thought-provoking commentary, he continues to challenge societal norms and foster important conversations on a global scale.
With his unique background, infectious charisma, and passionate storytelling, Trevor Noah has emerged as a trailblazer in the world of comedy. His ability to tackle serious issues with humor and empathy has made him an influential figure, beloved by audiences around the world. As he continues to push boundaries and entertain millions, Trevor Noah’s impact is undoubtedly set to endure for years to come.
20 Thought-Provoking Questions with Trevor Noah
1.Can you share your favorite 10 quotes in Born a Crime?
2.Relationships are built in the silences. You spend time with people, you observe them and interact with them, and you come to know them—and that is what apartheid stole from us: time.
3.Comfort can be dangerous. Comfort provides a floor but also a ceiling.
4.My mom did what school didn’t. She taught me how to think.
5.Language brings with it an identity and a culture, or at least the perception of it. A shared language says “We’re the same.” A language barrier says “We’re different.
6.A dog is a great thing for a kid to have. It’s like a bicycle but with emotions.
7.Language, even more than color, defines who you are to people.
8.Don’t fight the system, mock the system.
9.A knowledgeable man is a free man, or at least a man who longs for freedom.
10.He chose to have me in his life… Being chosen is the greatest gift you can give to another human being.
2. How did growing up in apartheid South Africa shape your worldview and sense of humor?
Well, growing up in apartheid South Africa significantly shaped my worldview and sense of humor. The experience of living under a racially segregated system had a profound impact on me, influencing the way I perceive the world and how I find humor even in challenging situations.
Apartheid taught me firsthand about the absurdity and cruelty of discrimination based on race. Witnessing the systemic injustices and being a mixed-race child during that time made me acutely aware of the power dynamics and racial tensions that existed in my country. This upbringing fostered a strong sense of empathy within me, as I saw the struggles faced by people from all backgrounds.
My sense of humor developed as a coping mechanism. I discovered that laughter can be a powerful tool to confront difficult topics and bridge divides. Comedy allowed me to address serious issues in a way that was accessible and relatable, encouraging conversations that might otherwise be uncomfortable or avoided. Through humor, I could challenge stereotypes, break down barriers, and encourage understanding.
3. Can you describe the challenges you faced being biracial during a time of racial segregation?
In South Africa at that time, the government categorized people into specific racial groups, and this strict classification made it difficult for individuals like me, who did not fit neatly into one predefined category. My mixed-race identity led to societal discrimination, as he was often subjected to prejudice and confusion from both black and white communities.
During apartheid, laws were implemented to enforce racial separation, which meant that my existence challenged the very foundation of these discriminatory policies. I had to navigate various spaces where mixing races was discouraged or even illegal. This likely resulted in encountering hostility, exclusion, and even violence due to my heritage.
Growing up in a racially segregated society posed additional challenges for me. Alongside facing discrimination based on race, I also experienced the complexities of identity formation. Being of mixed race, I had to reconcile his dual cultural heritage and find acceptance within a society that insisted on dividing people based on race.
4. What message or lessons do you hope readers take away from your book?
In my book, Born a Crime, one of the main messages I hope readers take away is the power of resilience and the human spirit’s ability to overcome adversity. Growing up in apartheid South Africa as a biracial child was challenging, to say the least. I want readers to understand that even in seemingly insurmountable circumstances, we can find hope and strength within ourselves.
Another important lesson I hope readers glean from my memoir is the significance of education and knowledge. Throughout my life, education has been a crucial tool for me to navigate through obstacles and create opportunities. I believe that knowledge empowers individuals to challenge societal norms and prejudices, ultimately leading to positive change.
Additionally, Born a Crime touches upon the themes of identity and belonging. Being born to a Swiss father and a Xhosa mother during a time when interracial relationships were illegal in South Africa forced me to grapple with questions of identity and where I fit in society. I hope readers come away with a deeper understanding of the complexities of race, culture, and the importance of embracing diversity.
5. How has your experience as a comedian influenced your writing style in Born a Crime?
Comedy has been a significant influence on my writing style in “Born a Crime.” Being a comedian requires me to find humor in everyday situations and use wit to engage the audience. This approach naturally carried over into my writing, allowing me to infuse humor into serious topics.
Humor serves as a powerful tool to engage readers and create a connection. In “Born a Crime,” I wanted to shed light on the realities of growing up mixed-race in South Africa during apartheid while still keeping the reader entertained and engaged. By using comedy, I believe I was able to strike a balance between addressing serious issues and providing moments of levity.
Furthermore, my experience as a comedian taught me how to effectively use timing and pacing in my writing. Just as in stand-up comedy, where timing is crucial for delivering punchlines, I aimed to structure my stories in “Born a Crime” to build tension and deliver impactful messages at the right moments. This allowed me to keep readers engaged and emotionally invested throughout the book.
6. Did you face any difficulties in transitioning from stand-up comedy to writing a memoir?
Transitioning from stand-up comedy to writing a memoir definitely presented its fair share of challenges. Stand-up comedy is primarily focused on delivering jokes and engaging with an audience in real-time. On the other hand, writing a memoir requires a different skill set and mindset.
One of the initial difficulties I encountered was finding the right tone for my memoir. In stand-up comedy, I have the advantage of using gestures, voice modulation, and facial expressions to enhance the delivery of my jokes. However, in writing, I had to rely solely on words to convey emotions and capture the essence of the stories I wanted to share. It took some time to strike a balance and ensure that my writing captured the same humor and authenticity that people expect from my performances.
Another challenge was organizing my thoughts and memories into a coherent narrative structure. Stand-up comedy allows for spontaneity and improvisation, whereas writing a memoir required me to carefully reflect on past experiences, dig deep into my memory, and piece together a cohesive story arc. It required me to revisit both joyous and painful moments, which could be emotionally challenging at times.
7. Which aspects of your childhood did you find most difficult or challenging to revisit while writing the book?
Writing my book, “Born a Crime,” was an incredibly personal and introspective experience. While there were many aspects of my childhood that I found challenging to revisit, a few stand out as particularly difficult.
Firstly, recalling the intense poverty I grew up in was emotionally taxing. Living in Soweto, South Africa, during apartheid meant that basic necessities were often scarce. Remembering the constant struggle for food, shelter, and other essentials brought back memories of the hardships my family and I endured.
Additionally, facing the painful reality of racial discrimination was another challenging aspect. As the son of a black mother and a white father, my existence was deemed illegal under apartheid laws. Revisiting the experiences of being constantly marginalized and treated as an outsider due to my mixed-race background was both heartbreaking and anger-inducing.
8. Were there any specific people or authors who inspired you to become a writer?
First and foremost, my mother played a significant role in shaping my passion for storytelling and writing. She had a strong influence on me with her love of literature and her ability to captivate an audience through her own tales.
In terms of authors, I have admired the works of many great writers who have inspired me along the way. One of them is Maya Angelou, whose words and powerful storytelling resonate deeply with me. Her ability to tackle important social issues with grace, honesty, and humor has always fascinated me and motivated me to use my own voice to shed light on important topics.
I’m also inspired by the works of satire and comedy writers like Jon Stewart, who taught me the power of using humor as a tool for social and political commentary. His ability to entertain while delivering thought-provoking messages has had a profound impact on my career as a writer and comedian.
9. How did your mother’s influence and her strong character shape your resilience and determination?
My mother has had a profound influence on shaping my resilience and determination. Growing up in South Africa during apartheid, my mother faced numerous challenges and hardships, but she never allowed those circumstances to break her spirit. Her unwavering strength and indomitable character served as an inspiration for me.
My mother’s resilience taught me the importance of perseverance and never giving up, even in the face of adversity. She instilled in me the belief that setbacks are merely stepping stones towards success, and that with hard work and determination, anything is possible. Her constant encouragement and belief in my abilities gave me the confidence to pursue my dreams.
Moreover, my mother’s strong character molded my perspective on life. She taught me the values of empathy, compassion, and resilience. She showed me the power of kindness and understanding, even in the most challenging circumstances. These lessons have shaped not only my comedic style but also my approach to tackling difficult subjects and advocating for social justice.
10. Can you share some memorable anecdotes from your book that highlight the impact of your relationship with your mother?
“The Naming of Shaka” – my mother, Patricia, named me after the famous Zulu warrior king, Shaka. This name carried great significance and became a constant reminder for me to embrace my heritage and be proud of my roots.
“The Dance Performance” – When I was young, Patricia enrolled me in a dance competition. Despite knowing little about dancing, I put in extra effort to impress my mother. Although I didn’t win, the experience taught me the importance of perseverance and going above and beyond to make my mother proud.
“The Chicken Thief” – In one humorous anecdote, I attempted to steal a chicken from a neighbor’s yard. Failing miserably, I ended up covered in feathers. My mother discovered what happened and instead of scolding me, she laughed heartily. This incident highlighted our bond and my ability to find humor even in challenging situations.
11. What role do you believe education played in your journey and success?
Education has played an immensely important role in my journey and success. Coming from South Africa during a time of racial segregation and inequality, I faced numerous challenges. However, education provided me with a foundation to navigate through these obstacles and pursue my dreams.
Firstly, education expanded my worldview and deepened my understanding of the world around me. It allowed me to critically analyze societal issues, challenge stereotypes, and develop a broader perspective. This knowledge became the bedrock for my comedy, allowing me to use humor as a tool to address social and political topics.
Moreover, education empowered me to communicate effectively across cultural and language barriers. Growing up in a multilingual environment, I learned to adapt and connect with diverse audiences. This skill proved invaluable when I transitioned into hosting “The Daily Show,” where I engage with people from different backgrounds on a daily basis.
12. In your opinion, how does humor help tackle serious social issues and bring about change?
Humor has a unique power to tackle serious social issues and bring about change because it allows us to approach sensitive topics in a more accessible and engaging way. Through laughter, we can dismantle barriers and create a space for conversation that might otherwise be difficult or uncomfortable.
First and foremost, humor serves as an icebreaker. By infusing comedy into serious discussions, I can help put people at ease and open their minds to consider different perspectives. It allows individuals to lower their defenses and engage with the underlying message more willingly.
Furthermore, humor can expose absurdities and contradictions within our society. Satire, irony, and exaggeration are powerful tools that comedians employ to highlight injustice, hypocrisy, and societal flaws. When people laugh at these absurdities, they not only recognize the problem but also feel motivated to address it.
Humor acts as a catalyst for empathy and understanding. By sharing relatable and funny anecdotes, I can connect with my audience on a personal level. This connection fosters a sense of shared humanity, breaking down stereotypes and biases. In turn, this empathy enables individuals to become more receptive to conversations surrounding social issues.
13. Were there any particular challenges or obstacles you faced in your career as a comedian?
Throughout my career as a comedian, there have been several challenges and obstacles that I’ve had to navigate. One of the most significant challenges was finding my comedic voice and establishing myself in a highly competitive industry. Coming from South Africa, where comedy was still relatively new when I started, it took time and effort to develop my style and gain recognition.
Another obstacle I faced was breaking through cultural barriers and bridging the gap between different audiences. As a biracial comedian, I had the opportunity to bring a unique perspective to my comedy. However, it also meant that I had to navigate a wide range of cultural backgrounds and find ways to connect with diverse audiences. This required adapting my material and understanding the nuances of various cultures.
Additionally, being an international comedian meant constantly adapting to different markets and audiences around the world. Each country has its own sense of humor, and what works in one place might not necessarily resonate in another. It was crucial for me to research and understand the cultural context of each audience, allowing me to tailor my performances accordingly.
14. How do you balance addressing serious topics like racism and inequality while still making people laugh?
Firstly, it’s crucial to approach these topics with empathy and respect for the experiences of those affected. By acknowledging the gravity of the issues at hand, I can ensure that my comedy doesn’t trivialize the hardships people face.
Humor allows us to examine uncomfortable truths, challenge preconceived notions, and expose the absurdity in societal norms. By using satire and irony, I can shed light on systemic injustices and provoke critical thinking without sacrificing the entertainment value.
Additionally, I strive to create an inclusive environment where everyone feels acknowledged and represented. Comedy should not perpetuate stereotypes or marginalize any group further. Instead, it should aim to bridge divides, build understanding, and promote unity.
To strike the right balance, I would engage in thorough research and gather different perspectives to develop well-informed comedic narratives. Incorporating personal anecdotes and relatable stories helps connect with diverse audiences, ensuring they can find humor in unexpected places while still grappling with challenging subjects.
15. Have you faced any backlash or criticism for your comedic approach to sensitive subjects?
I have indeed faced some backlash and criticism for my comedic approach to sensitive subjects. When discussing topics like race, politics, and social issues, it is inevitable that not everyone will find my perspective or style of humor appealing.
Humor has the power to challenge preconceived notions, spark conversations, and shed light on important issues. However, this can also invite disagreement and controversy. Some people may feel offended or believe that certain subjects should not be joked about. It’s important to respect those perspectives and engage in constructive dialogue.
Nevertheless, I strive to strike a balance by blending humor and empathy. Comedy allows me to bring attention to serious matters while making them more approachable and engaging for a wide audience. I understand that comedy is subjective, and not everyone will have the same reaction to my jokes. However, my intention is never to cause harm or perpetuate stereotypes but rather to encourage understanding, empathy, and unity through laughter.
I am constantly learning and evolving as a comedian, taking into account feedback and criticism from various sources. It is crucial for me to listen to different perspectives, engage in conversations about sensitive subjects, and refine my material accordingly. By doing so, I aim to ensure that my comedy remains thought-provoking, inclusive, and respectful to the diverse experiences and backgrounds of my audience.
16. How do you handle the responsibility that comes with being both a comedian and a social commentator?
Handling the responsibility that comes with being both a comedian and a social commentator is something I take very seriously. It’s about striking a delicate balance between humor and thoughtful commentary. As a comedian, my primary goal is to make people laugh and entertain them, but as a social commentator, I also understand the power of my platform and the potential influence I have on shaping public opinion.
First and foremost, I recognize that comedy can be a powerful tool for highlighting important issues and initiating conversations. Sometimes, laughter allows us to confront uncomfortable truths in a more digestible way, making difficult topics more accessible to a broader audience. Nevertheless, there are times when certain subjects require a more serious tone, and as a social commentator, it is my duty to approach those topics with sensitivity and respect.
Additionally, I strive for authenticity in my comedy and commentary. I believe it’s essential to remain true to my own voice and principles, while also acknowledging that my experiences may not represent everyone’s. I recognize the diversity of opinions and backgrounds within society, and I make an effort to address issues from multiple angles, ensuring that marginalized voices are heard and respected.
Lastly, I am aware of the impact my words can have, especially in an era of social media where messages can spread rapidly. Therefore, I choose my jokes and commentary carefully, keeping in mind the potential consequences they might have. While it’s impossible to please everyone, I aim to bring people together through humor and meaningful dialogue, fostering empathy and understanding.
17. Has writing Born a Crime changed your perspective on your own life or helped you gain new insights?
Writing “Born a Crime” has profoundly changed my perspective on my own life and allowed me to gain valuable new insights. This memoir gave me the opportunity to reflect upon my upbringing in South Africa during apartheid and post-apartheid periods, and understand how those experiences shaped me.
Through the process of writing, I delved into the complexities of my childhood, exploring the challenges, the triumphs, and the lessons I learned along the way. It made me realize the immense impact that my mother had on my life, her unwavering love, and the sacrifices she made to give me a better future. It deepened my appreciation for her resilience and instilled in me a sense of gratitude that extends beyond words.
Writing “Born a Crime” also forced me to confront the harsh realities of racism, discrimination, and social injustice that were prevalent in South Africa during my formative years. It allowed me to reflect on the power dynamics at play in society and the importance of using my platform to shed light on these issues, fostering empathy and understanding among people from different backgrounds.
18. Can you discuss the importance of storytelling in sharing your experiences and connecting with your audience?
Storytelling is an incredibly powerful tool for connecting with audiences and sharing personal experiences. Through storytelling, we can foster empathy, bridge cultural gaps, and bring people together through shared emotions and experiences.
When we share our own stories, we invite others into our world, making them feel heard and understood. It allows us to communicate on a human level, transcending societal boundaries and biases. By crafting narratives that resonate with people’s lives, we create an emotional connection that goes beyond mere facts or information.
For me, storytelling is particularly important in my role as a comedian and host. I aim to entertain, but also to shed light on social and political issues. Through humor and storytelling, I can tackle complex topics in a way that engages and educates the audience.
I believe that personal stories have the power to challenge preconceptions, break down stereotypes, and encourage dialogue. By sharing my experiences growing up in South Africa during apartheid, I can provide a unique perspective and raise awareness about racial and social injustices. It allows me to connect with diverse audiences who may not have had similar experiences but can still relate to the universal themes of struggle, resilience, and hope.
19. What advice would you give to aspiring writers who want to tell their own stories authentically?
Embrace your unique perspective: Your life experiences, culture, and background shape your voice as a writer. Embrace your individuality, and don’t be afraid to bring your own authentic story to the forefront. Your personal perspective adds depth and richness to your writing.
Be true to yourself: Authentic storytelling comes from a place of honesty and vulnerability. Stay true to yourself and your values when crafting your narratives. Don’t try to imitate someone else’s style or conform to societal expectations. Your genuine self will resonate with readers.
Research and immerse yourself: To tell your story authentically, research is essential. Invest time in learning about the history, culture, and context relevant to your experiences. This knowledge will help you present a well-rounded view and avoid clichés or stereotypes.
Write what you know: Start by mining your own experiences and emotions. Draw from personal moments that impacted you deeply. By infusing reality into your writing, you can create relatable characters and situations that resonate with your readers.
By following these guidelines, aspiring writers can pave the way for authentic storytelling that resonates with readers and leaves a lasting impact.
20. Finally, can you recommend more books which share the similar themes with Born a Crime?
“Hillbilly Elegy” by J.D. Vance: This memoir recounts Vance’s experiences growing up in a working-class Appalachian community and his journey to escape poverty and embrace upward mobility. It shares similarities with “Born a Crime” in its examination of societal and cultural challenges, familial relationships, and the pursuit of a better life.
“I Am Malala” by Malala Yousafzai: This autobiography chronicles Malala’s fight for girls’ education in Pakistan and her survival after being shot by the Taliban. Both “Born a Crime” and “I Am Malala” explore the importance of education, resilience in the face of oppression, and the transformative power of standing up for what one believes in.
“Educated” by Tara Westover: This memoir recounts the author’s journey from a survivalist family in rural Idaho to earning a PhD from Cambridge University. It examines the power of education and the struggle for self-identity.
These books offer powerful perspectives on personal growth, identity, and navigating societal challenges. They share similar themes with “Born a Crime” and provide insightful narratives that can broaden our understanding of the human experience.