Trevor Noah in Dubai - interview

Top South African comic talks outgrowing a life of crime

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Trevor Noah was ‘born a crime’, according to one of his gags. The mixed race South African comedian likes to tell his audience about growing up in Soweto during the apartheid in South Africa and waving to his white Swiss father from across the road.

Noah’s honest, charming and sharp observational brand of comedy has seen him quickly become one of South Africa’s top comedians and travel the world with his stand-up routine – and he’s making his way to Dubai this month with his new live show.

‘I get my inspiration from living – simple as that,’ says the 30-year-old. ‘The more I live, the more I see, the more I see the more I think, and the more I think the more I want to stay on stage.’

Noah’s career started off presenting a show called Noah’s Ark on local radio. But when he discovered stand-up, he left his broadcasting career behind to pursue comedy full time. It’s a move that has paid off big-time – he’s considered a megastar in his home country, and in 2012 Noah became the first South African stand-up comedian to appear on the US chat show The Tonight Show. But how does he think his brand of comedy will go down with the punters here in Dubai?

‘It depends on the crowd because Dubai’s one of those places where the majority of people who live in Dubai, are not from Dubai,’ he says. ‘It all depends on who comes to the show. It’s really about finding common ground with your audience – you share more in common than we do in differences.’

Noah cites British comedian Eddie Izzard as an inspiration to him, and credits him with helping to tell his stories on stage. The pair met after a show when Noah was starting out and learning his trade as a stand-up. At that point Noah was reluctant to share his personal stories, and it was Izzard who encouraged him to have some fun with it. That advice proved to be golden, as Noah’s laid-back approach to a subject as sensitive as apartheid has seen him win over crowds worldwide.

Despite his successes, Noah says he still gets nervous before every gig.

‘I never take it for granted that people will laugh, so you go out and hope for the best and take a minute to calm before the show. It’s like going on a blind date, you’re always nervous going in but you make the best of it, and hopefully everyone’s smiling.’

Noah has had six touring shows and believes his act has developed along the way. ‘I think I’ve become more worldly in my comedy,’ he adds. ‘I’ve travelled and I think like a global citizen as opposed to a South African. I enjoy myself a lot more. I’ve found a more comfortable space on stage and I think I’ve become a lot calmer.’

The road to stand-up success is often arduous with plenty of rejection and heckling along the way. Thankfully, Noah had more than a few plan Bs up his sleeve if his career in comedy hadn’t worked out.

‘I think I’ve tried everything.

I always wanted to be a chauffeur and drive a nice car. Then I always wanted to be a getaway driver for bank robberies and stuff, but I thought the whole jail thing could be a problem – but I guess I if I was a good getaway driver I wouldn’t go to jail. Luckily, comedy saved me.’

And it’s lucky for us too. Noah says he’s looking forward to trying new and exclusive material at his show in Dubai at the end of March. ‘I never do the same show twice. I try and make it as unique as possible to the place I’m in because I enjoy that as much for myself so I don’t get bored of what I’m doing. It’s always going to be different.’
Trevor Noah Live in Dubai. Dhs280. Thu March 27 to Sat March 29. 8.30pm. Centrepoint Theatre, Ductac, Mall of the Emirates, Al Barsha, www.timeouttickets.com

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