Trevor Noah Takes On Racism And Police Brutality Before Taking Over ‘The Daily …

29 Jul 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Daily Show’s’ Trevor Noah Flashes Media Savvy at Critic-Packed L.A. Performance.

“Charming American racism,” Ebola panic and what it’s like to be a black man who fears the police: These topics were on the agenda when Trevor Noah, the new host of “The Daily Show,” offered the world a glimpse of what he’ll do when he takes over for Jon Stewart. A charming Trojan horse delivering some frequently thought-provoking material, Trevor Noah appeared to win over many during a standup performance at Santa Monica’s Broad Stage on Tuesday night. Noah, who begins his stint as the host of the Comedy Central program Sept. 28, performed an hourlong standup set for a handpicked crowd of TV critics and other media types in Santa Monica, California, on Tuesday. There will be detractors, especially considering a good portion of the audience were members of the oft-skeptical Television Critics Association, but there is no arguing with the approving reception the future Daily Show host received throughout his hour-plus show. In addition to the return of South Park, Nathan For You, and TripTank, there are several new short-form series debuting this fall, and one new animated series.

Noah’s set was a mixture of reliably relatable topics — isn’t air travel a drag? — that often segued into generally nimble yet firmly accessible explorations of challenging topics. Though it was shot through with appreciative observations about what he’s been able to see and experience thanks to his career as a traveling standup comedian — a profession he said he adores — the thorny challenges of racism were a constant theme. At one point, Noah, who grew up in Soweto in South Africa, called himself a “connoisseur” of racism. “I don’t mean to brag,” he said, but South African racism is “export quality.” He declared himself a fan of “blatant racism,” which he said usually comes from old people. “Yeah,” he said, as he depicted cheerfully listening to an obvious bigot. “You’re going to die soon!” He wasn’t a fan of more subtle racism, and he put on an American accent as he imitated someone dismissing “your kind.” What kind would that be, exactly? “Tall people?” he inquired. “Friendly people?” Don’t make him work to figure it out, he sighed. “What is this, racism Sudoku?” He took Paula Deen to task for saying she “wasn’t racist” and for explaining that she just used a slur because she was angry. “Don’t ever say the anger made you racist. A relative unknown before Comedy Central’s March announcement that he would be the de facto face of the network, people were still asking who he was when a back catalog of controversial (and admittedly unfunny) Twitter jokes was unearthed.

If he has a burning passion to referee the 2016 US presidential campaign slugfest already well underway — or other aspects of American politics — he hid it from an audience of fans and TV critics who were invited to his performance in advance of a media Q&A with the performer on Wednesday. Noah, 31, referred only briefly to the high-profile stage he will soon command, one that Stewart made an unlikely but potent part of the electoral process. “As some of you may or may not know, I got a job,” Noah said, drawing cheers and applause. “That’s how my grandmother put it.” He later joked that his mother was prouder of his youngest brother’s election to his school’s student council. Noah talked about how alcoholics and drug addicts get help for their addictions, but when it comes to racists, “we do nothing.” “Why is no one helping him to change?” Noah asked. In anticipation of Jon Stewart’s Aug. 6 Daily Show send-off and Noah’s Sept. 28 debut, the network has begun trotting him out — and, perhaps to soften the line of questioning he’ll face from reporters at his July 28 TCA panel, that included Tuesday’s performance. Throughout his crowd-pleasing routine, Noah employed skillful mimicry of American dialects, a variety of sound effects — including Star Wars light sabers in action — and flashes of his notable dimples.

Why isn’t Sterling attending meetings of Racists Anonymous, Noah wondered, where the older man could, for instance, talk about almost — but not quite — using slurs when angry in traffic. Noah was clearly wound up and seemingly nervous at the start of his set, and a few of his jokes didn’t quite land, like the one that compared airports to concentration camps, where long lines of barefoot people are asked to produce their papers. Overall, though, Noah’s energetically delivered material was well-received, and he nimbly traversed the divide between the seriousness of the topics he raised and the absurdity of the jokes he found within them.

By midway through his set, he had eased into a more confident rhythm, one that had him frequently imitating various kinds of people, from his South African grandmother to Middle Eastern men to aggressively friendly Southerners. Noah’s one-man-show approach works for standup, but few would argue that it doesn’t need some tailoring to be translated to a topical television series best known for its interviews with politicos. He then segued into a discourse on recent black deaths, saying the “unspoken agreement” that protected blacks who behaved cautiously when stopped by police has been abandoned. “Now, I don’t know how not to die.

And Noah clearly does his research, referencing specifically the events and coverage of the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson and mass murders at the Paris office of Charlie Hebdo and Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church — to name a few — but he’s had a lot of time to do his homework. Because every time I turn on the news, another black person has been killed for seemingly fewer and fewer reasonable reasons,” he said, starting with the non-police shooting of teenager Trayvon Martin in Florida. The interjection never quite caught on with black people, he said, perhaps because it sounds too much like the wail of a police siren. “There was a time when black people and the police had an unspoken agreement,” Noah said. “We knew there were certain protocols to observe … The Daily Show, albeit heavily aided by writing staff, requires the kind of dutiful attention to current events that many comedians probably don’t have the stomach for.

Returning shorts like “Six Guys One Car” and “New Timers” will be joined by new titles like “White Flight.” You can read the descriptions of these new programs, along with release dates for the new round of stand-up specials (including one from Trevor Noah himself), at Coming Soon’s listings. Noah also targeted what he called the kneejerk labelling of Muslims as terrorists, the lack of Hispanics in the Star Wars films and the jarringly friendly racism of Americans, including a “classic Southern belle” who he said gushed over him yet used a racial epithet. Noah’s new Comedy Central neighbor, barely seven months into his tenure hosting The Nightly Show, has taken up the late-night mantle of what it means to be black in America today. If two are sharing the same hour on the same network, despite their decidedly different backgrounds and approaches, it will be interesting to see how they differentiate themselves. Noah imagined a terrorist wanting to blow up a plane to show that “Allah is great.” He then acted the part of a weary Muslim man who replied, “Yeah, but we know this.” Prejudice is everywhere, he said: Every shooting of a black person is “gang-related,” he said, even if it involves small children.

Meanwhile, in the Hamptons or Beverly Hills, vague language prevails when shootings involve white people: “A gun went off” or “discharged” and police “are investigating.” Touching on the shootings in Charleston, he noted that men like Dylann Roof are always termed “lone gunmen” with no friends. Not even one friend on Facebook? “‘He was a troubled young man’ — I hear that, but he was a terrorist,” Noah said, declaring that it was a form of discrimination not to use that word in this scenario. “I refuse to live in a world where we deny a white man the label ‘terrorist.’” He may be filled with questions about whether America — or any other country — can solve the complicated problems he touched on during his set. When he told his mother he’d got the “Daily Show” job, she was pleased for him, and then mentioned that his much younger brother had gotten a spot on his school’s student council.

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