Review: Trevor Noah blends passion and politics in Vancouver
In this July 29, 2015 file photo, Trevor Noah, host of the new 'The Daily Show with Trevor Noah,' poses for a portrait in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Invision / Matt Sayles)
Published Friday, February 24, 2017 9:30AM PST
The world needs comedians right now. The scarier the planet becomes, the more voices of humour and reason resonate. Thank the comedy gods then, for Trevor Noah, who took a break from his regular role as host of The Daily Show to treat Vancouver to more than two hours of belly laughs last night as one of the brightest stars appearing at the city’s JFL Northwest Festival.
To clarify, those two hours were split into a pair of shows, both at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. Even Noah’s fiercest critics can’t deny his efficiency. Nor could they disparage the freshness of his material. Beginning his later performance with a chunk celebrating the glory of Canada (“Or as Americans call it, Plan B”), Noah wasted little time before giving his play-by-play analysis of the now-famous Trump/Trudeau handshake. “Do you know how bad Justin Trudeau makes Donald Trump look? In every way!”
Resisting the temptation to dismantle the president for the entire show, Noah called time on the Trump-bashing after only ten minutes. That’s his day job after all. The Trevor Noah stand up experience goes deeper than the politics of today.
As South Africa’s most successful cultural export, Noah is blessed with the ability to view America, Canada and much of the rest of the world as an outsider. He’s also a brilliant mimic, with a gift for accents that goes far beyond a note-perfect rendition of Trump’s gruff New York ramblings.
That talent for note-perfect accents brought a pair of familiar stories back to life – ordering Indian food in Edinburgh and confusion at the taco truck in Pasadena. He’d unveiled both tales in his Vancouver performance a year ago, but like a band’s best songs, hits like these are always worth hearing again.
Noah’s natural charm is undeniable, but it’s his warm and positive approach to tackling potentially hypersensitive subjects that have taken him places no African comedian has been before. He took the time to explain the enormous difference between a fear of seeming racist and actually being racist, taking particular delight in the nonsense of people claiming they don’t see colour.
"Louis Armstrong wouldn’t have made great music with that attitude,” he grinned, before launching into another pinpoint impersonation. “I see trees. Roses too.”
His deconstruction of the n-word, initially shocking, brilliantly demonstrated how even the most offensive terms can be deprived their power.
As an African trying to make sense of out of control American culture, Noah has learned that it’s ok to be confused. Having grown up a mixed-race child in Apartheid South Africa, he understands that things can get better. As one of the world’s elite comedians, his strength derives from more than his jokes. He’s tackling the big questions. And he’s speaking from the heart.