Trevor Noah interview ahead of his appearance at Dubai Comedy Festival
Life is pretty good for Trevor Noah right now. At 31 years old, he’s recently taken over from American comedian Jon Stewart as the host of The Daily Show in New York (a hard act to follow, Stewart held the position for 17 years and was loved by millions) all while touring the world as a stand-up. His next stop will be at The Dubai Comedy Festival on Saturday October 24 at Skydive Dubai alongside fellow comics Dave Chappelle, Hannibal Buress and Jerrod Carmichael.
It’s been seven months since we last spoke with Noah – the charismatic South African funnyman was at the Time Out Dubai Music & Nightlife Awards and after-party in March, where he spent the evening partying into the small hours at White Dubai. These days, you’ll find him on the red carpet at the Emmy Awards, hanging out with Hollywood heavy-weights including the likes of Jon Hamm, Kerry Washington and Claire Danes, not to mention rubbing shoulders with the likes of Angelina Jolie, who he says left him star-struck – “I couldn’t even string a sentence together”, he tells us, laughing. Not bad for “some random kid from South Africa” who wanted to be a computer programmer.
“The idea that I could end up on The Daily Show was beyond my belief. I never aspired to it,” says Noah, when we speak on the eve of his first show. Having spent the weekend in rehearsals, he says he’s feeling fantastic. “Jon [Stewart] told me not to take anybody’s advice and just do my own thing, so that’s what I’ve been doing.” And it seems to have paid off, as Noah’s first week on The Daily Show was well received – the UK’s The Telegraph called his performance “slick” and “affectionate”.
Looking at Noah, you’d think that fame was always on the cards. He has the looks of a Ralph Lauren model, is well-spoken and polite and has the ability to make audiences from New York to Dubai laugh – a poster boy for primetime TV. But growing up, he had no interest in comedy or being famous. Born to a Swiss father and black South African mother, he says he was a “fairly average kid” and didn’t lead a particularly exciting life. “I was just trying not to worry about having pimples and worrying about who to take to my prom. Life was normal.” It wasn’t until the age of 22, in a bar in his native Johannesburg, that he found himself thrust into comedy. A pal convinced him to go on stage, and so his career was born. “I never really knew what stand-up comedy was before encountering it in that little bar,” he laughs. “I grew up watching American shows like MacGyver and Murder She Wrote, all those weird shows. That’s all we had, there weren’t really any comedies.”
Despite his limited exposure to comedy, he isn’t doing too badly. Comedian and actor Kevin Hart joined him as a guest on his debut show, along with musician Ryan Adams and the governor of New Jersey Chris Christie. So how does he feel being surrounded by political influencers and celebrities? “I just feel comfortable, I don’t feel special,” he says. “I feel like I’m in a place where I can share my views and thoughts and have conversations that are honest. Comedy is how I let off steam, it’s what I love.”
Noah’s appearance at The Dubai Comedy Festival will be his first stand-up gig following The Daily Show, and says he’s really excited to return. “There’s just something magical about Dubai. It’s a melting pot of cultures and races – it’s totally different.” On his last trip to the emirate, Noah spent his time as “a tourist”, racing at Dubai Autodrome, hitting Wild Wadi and experiencing his first Dubai brunch. It’s clear he’s very much a people person – hardly surprising considering his profession – admitting that if he was The Last Man on Earth (in reference to a TV show he says made him laugh hysterically five minutes earlier) he would “probably drive around and try to find some other people, because without people there’s almost no point.” With 4,500 people expected for Noah’s Dubai show, we reckon he’ll feel right at home. Trevor Noah show: Dhs295-750. October 24, 7pm-9pm. Skydive Dubai, Dubai Marina. Dubai Comedy festival runs from October 15-24 at various venues. www.dubaicomedyfest.ae.
Three more gigs
Veteren Chappelle is at Skydive Dubai on October 23. One of America’s best-loved comedians, the 42-year-old from Washington has appeared in The Nutty Professor, Con Air, and Blue Streak, while also clocking up the awards for his own self-titled sketch show. Hannibal Buress
Hannibal Buress and Jerrod Carmichael play a joint show on October 16 at Skydive Dubai. Comedy Central favourite Buress is known for playing Lincoln Rice in TV series Broad City. Meanwhile, American stand-up Carmichael has been described as one of Variety magazine’s Top Ten Comics to Watch. The Comedy Strip
Head to The Walk on JBR to see performances including Funny Girls at Tr!beca, JA Ocean View Hotel, on October 17, Dubomedy Comedy Jam at Stereo Arcade, DoubleTree by Hilton – Jumeirah Beach on October 18 and The Laughter Factory at Mövenpick Hotel Jumeirah Beach, October 22-23.