My latest Humor In Hindsight column for Decider looks back at the start of Trevor Noah’s rapid rise through the stand-up comedy ranks, which began in his native South Africa.
You Laugh But It’s True followed Noah at 25, directed and produced by David Paul Meyer (now a producer for Noah’s version of The Daily Show on Comedy Central) with Anthony Anderson as an executive producer.
Noah not only came up younger and hungrier for the big-time, but also now carrying the advantages as biracial and speaking several languages: Sotho, Afrikaans, Zulu, German, Tsonga, Xhosa and English. “For the South African public, that guy becomes like the everyman,” Lediga observed. “You know, he’s not black, he’s not white. He’s just whoa, he’s mine, he’s everybody’s.”
As someone just starting out in stand-up, Noah’s working whatever gigs he can get, and we see him suffer through the indignities of a Microsoft Windows log-on screen shining on and past his face on a projector screen while he works a corporate function, then onstage at a concert when the musicians begin tuning their instruments as he’s telling a joke. He’s paying his dues, as it were, and he’s aware of that.
“I don’t even know myself yet fully,” the 25-year-old tells us. “I think I’m very fave from even calling myself a good comedian. I’m just OK for now.”
And yet. At that same time, he’s got a billboard with his face on it, advertising his first show in a 1,100-seat theater. The nerve of this guy, right?