Interview with Trevor Noah: Life, jokes and art

Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime and other stories (Pan Macmillan) has just been published around the world. The Mail & Guardian asked Noah about himself, his book, his writing and the art of comedy.

Describe yourself in a sentence.
I’m an introvert with extroverted tendencies.

Describe your ideal reader.
Cosmopolitan in their views of life.

What is your favourite reading matter?
I love reading autobiographies. Getting to share in the inner workings of another person’s life and mind is something I cherish about a great book.

How did you approach telling your autobiographical stories?
To be honest, I just told the stories to people I know. Then I recorded them, transcribed them and then, with the help of my editor, put all the pieces into the right places.


Did the work of David Sedaris influence how you told your life story?
I read a number of story and essay collections while thinking about the book, mostly by other comedians. Sedaris was one of them, but hardly the main one. It was more to get an idea of what I didn’t want to do, which was to write a jokey humour book. I wanted to tell real stories from my life and from South Africa – to pay tribute to my mother and everything she did for me – and let the humour flow naturally from the characters and the situations, not artificially inserted punch lines.

Which comedians have inspired you most and how?
Comedians inspire me with their talent, not necessarily their style or content. Dave Chapelle inspires me just with how much comedy talent is in one person. Chris Rock’s work ethic is inspiring, Eddie Izzard’s free-form absurdity. So many comics inspire me in different ways.

What is the purpose of stand-up comedy?
Stand-up comedy has to make people laugh, it’s really that simple. Some jokes are benign and merely designed for a laugh, others seek to point out absurdities in norms that society chooses to overlook. But stand-up can take many forms and have many styles. The only constant is laughter.

What is the purpose of storytelling?
To carry stories from generation to generation. To travel another person through time and space. To share a piece of your mind with others.

Subscribe to the M&G for R2 a month

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

And for this weekend only, you can become a subscriber by paying just R2 a month for your first three months.

Related stories

Q&A Sessions: ‘I think I was born way before my time’ — Mamodupi Mohlala

The chief executive of the Estate Agency Affairs Board and the deputy chair of the SABC board, shares her take on retrenchments at the public broadcaster and reveals why she hates horror movies

Review: Cohen’s fire lacks fuel in ‘Borat’ sequel

The film interrogates patriarchy, but the baseness of the US means there’s nothing left to send up

The art of the virtual experience

The live magic may be gone, but the National Arts Festival showcases some exhilarating work

Oh Shucks, an accidental blackface hero

Leon Schuster is having a few movies of his removed from Showmax and Phumlani Pikoli figures: what better time to reflect on this bruh than now?

Queen Sono moers the dudes

The spy drama with its kick-ass heroine Queen Sono shows the continent in a new light

The Portfolio: Gilli Apter

South African comedian, writer and director Gilli Apter speaks about how hilarious content requires constant writing and feedback from the comedy community
Advertising

Subscribers only

ANC: ‘We’re operating under conditions of anarchy’

In its latest policy documents, the ANC is self-critical and wants ‘consequence management’, yet it’s letting its members off the hook again

Q&A Sessions: ‘I think I was born way before my...

The chief executive of the Estate Agency Affairs Board and the deputy chair of the SABC board, shares her take on retrenchments at the public broadcaster and reveals why she hates horror movies

More top stories

Exclusive: Top-secret testimonies implicate Rwanda’s president in war crimes

Explosive witness testimony from the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda implicates Paul Kagame and the RPF in mass killings before, during and after the 1994 genocide.

Shadow of eviction looms over farm dwellers

In part two of a series on the lives of farm dwellers, Tshepiso Mabula ka Ndongeni finds a community haunted by the scourge of eviction

DRC: Tshisekedi and Kabila fall out

The country’s governing coalition is under strain, which could lead to even more acrimony ahead

Editorial: Crocodile tears from the coalface

Pumping limited resources into a project that is predominantly meant to extend dirty coal energy in South Africa is not what local communities and the climate needs.
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…