“Comedy is like sex” began South African standup comedian Trevor Noah. This opening line from last Thursday’s event, which was sponsored by the UofC’s Students Promoting Interracial Networks and the African-Caribbean Students’ Association, earned both gasps and chuckles. Noah continued, “Really, though. I’m the man and you, the audience, are the woman. It’s up to me to perform and I can only tell how well I’m doing by the amount of noise you make.” Judging by the wild applause and standing ovation that followed Noah’s performance, he can rest assured that he, well, satisfied.
A huge hit in Africa–he’s famous forÂ his commercials for Cell C, one of South Africa’s largest cell phone companies–Noah is still unknown in America. But his set last Thursday, the conclusion of a three-month tour of the States, might just plant a seed of popularity on the South Side.
A crowd of older African expats and UofC students packed McCormick Lounge to hear the comic riff on everything from Mexican Jedis to Osama Bin Laden. His grasp of accents–from the colorful cadences of a Nigerian to the flat drawl of an American bank employee–had the audience in stitches. Throughout the night, Noah used his position as a biracial comic and solid understanding of American racial politics to exploit the most mundane of situations. In one bit, a friendly, liberal, white female bank employee “short circuited” because Noah checked the “white” box on his application form. Later on in his act, Noah confessed to the audience that he had freaked out in a Dubai hotel after seeing a man that looked a little “terrorist-y” hide in a darkened room, only for the man to burst out singing Happy Birthday to a young woman in heavily accented English.
After Noah’s set ended, a long line of old fans and new devotees came up for photos and autographs. “You were hilarious,” gushed one girl. “I’m one of those black people that doesn’t know anything about Africa, and I’m telling you, you’re about to blow up!”