Review: Trevor Noah, “Born a Crime”

Growing up in South Africa with an African mother and a Swiss-German father, the nation’s prevailing policy of Apartheid at the time meant that Trevor Noah had been “Born a Crime.”

That’s the title Noah adopts for his one-man show, “The Racist,” which over the past year he has performed at the grand comedy festivals in Edinburgh (presented by Eddie Izzard) and this spring in Melbourne, and in between in London and across Africa. His off-Broadway run began in New York City earlier this month, and “Born a Crime” is now extended through June 29, 2013, Wednesday through Saturday nights at the Culture Project (45 Bleecker St.).

Noah is biracial by birth and by fact.

By skin color, however, he has but one. And yet, it’s not necessarily the one he’s identified by, either there in South Africa or here in America. Noah talks with refreshing candor about his yearning to be “black American,” and his gift for accents and voices allows him to carry us along on his lifelong journey with plenty of laughs. What is mixed race? What is black? Why is black called urban?

That Americans don’t know what to make of this mixed-race South African man only makes it more enjoyable to watch Noah express their confusion through his eyes and voices.

This is Noah’s first prolonged introduction to American audiences. He performed previously last year on both The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and on Comedy Central’s Gabriel Iglesias Presents Stand-Up Revolution.

He can speak six languages and is learning two more to connect more with both of his heritages.

Noah connects with his audiences slowly but surely, confidently bringing us into his world before explaining his worldview to us, as well as how the world views him. By the time he’s done, it won’t matter what language is your native tongue. Know what I mean becomes naw-me becomes normal.

Noah explained himself anew in five minutes on the May 17 episode of Late Show with David Letterman. Roll the clip!

At the show I attended, Noah nimbly demonstrated his knowledge of African and world politics with audience members. If the audience can leave learning as much about Noah’s own racial politics, then we’re all better off for the experience.

Naw me?

Trevor Noah, “Born A Crime,” through June 29, 2013, at Culture Project (45 Bleecker) in New York City.

Noah also will star in his first U.S. stand-up special in July on Showtime, “Trevor Noah: African American,” and bring his one-man show to Montreal’s Just For Laughs festival, then again to Edinburgh.

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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