One of the most eagerly anticipated debuts of recent series was South African comedy sensation, Trevor Noah. Trevor had recently completed a six-week sell-out run at London’s Soho Theatre for his show Trevor Noah: The Racist. One of the things that makes his stand-up so compelling is the contrast between the polite, almost sweet delivery and the shocking, prejudice-challenging bite of his material. This was exactly what he brought to QI, charming everyone, including fellow guests Jason Manford and Sandi Toksvig, and seeming perfectly at ease as the script veered from killer whales to killer robots.
Considering he’s only 28, Trevor’s career trajectory has been remarkable. He began performing stand-up in 2007 and his first one-man show, The Daywalker, debuted in 2009. Trevor grew up in a Soweto township, the son of a white Swiss man and a black Xhosa woman. He was, as he says, ‘born a crime’ and though much of his material is to do with race, he is perfectly capable of talking about football, computer games or the crapness of the English weather (which shouldn’t even be called weather as ‘the word “weather” implies change’).
Internationally, his breakthrough year was 2012. He nailed his appearance on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno, becoming the first South African comic to perform on the show. Later that year, he triumphed again in Edinburgh in a show produced by Eddie Izzard, who’s a huge fan. To round off a great year, David Paul Meyer’s award-winning film about Trevor’s life and work, You Laugh But It’s True was released to great acclaim.
Now his Twitter following has sailed past the million mark and a rant about the inadequacies of C-Tel, one of South Africa’s mobile networks, led to them placing a full page ad of apology in TheSunday Times. But Trevor’s feet remain firmly planted on the ground: ‘in comedy, it doesn’t really matter what you look like or where you come from; funny is funny. You can find your audience regardless of who they are, and who you are.’