At only 34 years old, comedian, actor, writer and producer Trevor Noah has changed the face of comedy. A native of Johannesburg, South Africa and born to a black Xhosa mother and a German-Swiss white father during 1984, the height of the apartheid, his childhood was no laughing matter. Ironically, that’s exactly what he jokes about. Noah’s biracial identity combined with growing up in an illegal family allows him to cross racial, cultural, political and social lines with real life experience.
“I inherited my sense of humor from my mom,” he told Time Magazine, “the ability to laugh in the face of danger, to mock it.” Nevertheless, his mockery, though funny, leaves his fans with lingering thoughts and questions about why issues like racial division and social equality even exist. Intertwining his comedy with social justice commentary, Noah’s humor keeps the world laughing while exposing their convictions as well. Whether he’s joking about his own upbringing, colonization, siri or speaking in German, Noah uses humor to talk about some of the world’s most destructive wrongs.
Despite growing up in an environment that valued censorship more than humor, Noah’s observant nature and sarcastic comments helped build the foundation for his career in comedy. “I was in first grade, [and] I remember making a joke about the principal at the time and the manner in which he administered corporal punishment,” he told The San Diego Union Tribune.“There was something funny about the way he did it. I said something and the rest of the class laughed very hard,” he concluded, admitting the situation made him feel like a comic genius. But it wasn’t until his mid to late twenties that his comedy career really took off after his friends dared him to share some of his jokes on stage. In fact, it wasn’t until he met English comedian Eddie Izzard in a comedy club that Noah really began to hone his craft.