When Jon Stewart retired from the Daily Show it was a big surprise that a South African was picked as his successor. Who is Trevor Noah? I confess I didn't watch Comedy Central either before or after the transition. I developed a liking for Jon Stewart from watching him on other shows, and watching the odd clip. Trevor Noah has not crossed my radar as much, but always in a favourable way.
He is very unique. This book explains some of it.
The circumstances of his birth were unusual in many ways. His Xhosa mother was very independent and defied apartheid rules by living in a white area and working in a non traditional job for blacks, secretary. She befriended a white man, a Swiss German and told him she wanted a child by him. He resisted, but later said he wanted to be involved with his son. Of course this was made very difficult. A mixed race chid could be classified as a colored. This meant he could not be seen with either his father or his mother or they could be jailed.
Trevor could be described as polyglot. His mother encouraged him. His black relatives asked him to pray in English as non speakers felt that language was more effective He spoke several African languages, Xhosa, Zulu, Tsonga, Sotho, bit of Afrikaans which helped him to socialize with more people and even help him get out of tight spots.
Trevor knew poverty. As a youngster he learned to like bone marrow and at one point ate a variation of worms. He was tied to shoplifting where he escaped because camera could not pick up the darkness of his skin. Stealing was fairly normal but copying CDs to resell was critical to his survival. Everyone has a story of what they got away with: http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2013/08/what-have-you-gotten-away-with.html
Trevor got involved with a lot of questionable activities, that is activities the middle class establishment would question. In reality he was born into a situation where to get ahead his activities were normal. If he was a little sharper than his peers he might do a little better. Inside he had a conscience and was supported by his mother.
An analogy from the author: "Hustling is to work what surfing the Internet is to reading. If you add up how much you read on the Internet--tweets, Facebook posts, lists--you've read the equivalent of a sh*t ton of books, but in fact you've read no books in a year. When I look back on it, that's what hustling was..."
His mother was religious and dragged Trevor to three church services including one for whites most Sundays. She ended up married to a charming man (who Trevor also liked a lot), but eventually resented his wife's success and modern habits and became abusive. Trevor left home and the abuse continued even with another child. Near the end of the book we learn that she is shot by the now former husband and survives.
Trevor points out some oddities about apartheid. Chinese because there weretn't very many of them were not classified separately, but for convenience called blacks. Japanese (whose home country manufactured desirable cars and electronics) were honorary whites--as Trevor points few South African police could tell the difference between Japanese and Chinese.
His sense of humour is all through the book, but he covers some serious things. As a comedian he takes serious issues and frames them from a humorous perspective
Outside the book it turns out that Trevor was threatened by his former step father and fled the country. His ex step father was convicted of attempted murder. Trevor felt the South African police did not take domestic abuse seriously enough.
This book is not about his career, but there are a few references. Copying CDs leads to becoming a disc jockey. At age 18 he was acting in a role with a South African soap opera. We learn that at the time of his mother's shooting he had already established himself as a comedian and had even performed in Britain. Trevor established himself on South African television winning awards. Got involved with the Daily News and was able to step in after Jon Stewart decided to move on
When he makes you laugh it is probably comparing serious issues with ridiculous juxtapositions.