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By Bonginkosi Tiwane

Digital Journalist

Trevor Noah becomes first comedian to win Erasmus Prize since Charlie Chaplin

The Erasmus Prize which recognizes exceptional contributions by individuals or institutions consists of an over R3 million prize money.

South African comedian Trevor Noah became the first comedian to receive the Erasmus Prize in 58 years since English comic icon Charlie Chaplin.

“As the youngest recipient I will be reading my speech from my phone,” quipped the comedian opening his speech.

“It is truly an honour to be standing here as a recipient of this prestigious accolade. And to be honest, it’s really a little unbelievable.”

Established in 1958, the award recognizes exceptional contributions by individuals or institutions to culture, society, or social science in Europe and the rest of the world.

The Praemium Erasmianum Foundation derives its name from the Dutch humanist scholar Desiderius Erasmus who died in 1536.

Being the first comedian to win the award, Noah shared what comedy means to him.

“For me, comedy is connection. And I think the power of connection lies in its ability to bridge diverse perspectives. It helps us foster understanding and innovation,” he said.

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“I am very proud that after 220 years, a South African has been able to take a few resources from the Netherlands back to the Cape. Thank you,” said Noah concluding his speech.

The ceremony was held at Koninklijk Theater Carré in Amsterdam.  Noah was in Europe in the past few days where he played three nights at London’s O2 Arena.

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The Erasmus Prize

In 1965 The Erasmus Prize was shared by Chaplin and Ingmar Bergman. Chaplin was awarded the Erasmus Prize for his extensive and universally appreciated oeuvre, which made a great contribution to the development of the cinema from an industry into an art.

The Praemium Erasmianum Foundation Board of the Foundation determines well in advance the area in which an Erasmus Prize will be awarded.

Subsequently, an advisory committee is formed which proposes a laureate after consulting with Dutch and foreign experts. The Board is responsible for the final decision about the choice of the laureate.

Cashing in

The Erasmus Prize consists of euro 150,000 (R 3,048,771.43) and come with adornments.  The adornments were designed by Bruno Ninaber van Eyben in 1995.

They consist of a harmonica folded ribbon with a titanium plate at both ends. In closed form it is a booklet; when opened a ribbon with a text in Erasmus’ handwriting. This text taken from a letter to Jean de Carondelet (Basel 5 January 1523) is characteristic of Erasmus’ thinking:

“diverse are the gifts of men of genius and many are the different kinds of ages. let each one reveal the scope of his competence and let no one be envious of another who in keeping with his own ability and style tries to make a useful contribution to the education of all.”

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