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By Bonginkosi Tiwane

Digital Journalist

‘It was very lonely’: Trevor Noah reflects on his time on ‘The Daily Show’

Trevor Noah said being on 'The Daily Show' was demanding, with the comedian often working 18 hours a day.

South African comedian Trevor Noah opened up about challenges of being in the US and not getting the endorsement of Hollywood, until Kevin Hart appeared on the show.

Noah exited The Daily Show after seven seasons in December and in a recent interview while back home in South Africa, the comedian opened up about the difficulty of adjusting to life in the US.

The award-winning comic is currently touring the country, performing his latest comedy special. He has already played Cape Town and Durban and will perform at the SunBet Arena in Gauteng on Tuesday night.

Being an outsider

Noah surprised many when he announced last year that he’ll be leaving The Daily Show eight years after taking over from its renowned host, Jon Stewart.

“I don’t think it was eight years of incredible success, there was a few years of struggling, which is part of the journey,” said Noah as he appeared on Clement Manyathela’s show on Radio 702 on Tuesday morning.

“It was very lonely. It was lonely because I came in very much as an outsider, people were complaining even about my accent.”

Noah said that fellow comedian Kevin Hart was the first big-name celebrity to endorse him when other celebrities chose to shun his invite to appear on the show.

“Kevin came; he was the first guest on my show. He put his neck on the line there… I will always be grateful to this guy.

“I couldn’t get a single guest on my show when we were starting. People were just like ‘we’re not coming, we’re not going to take a chance with this guy’.”

“A lot of people want to be on trains that are going in the right direction, they don’t want to be there when your train seems like it’s not moving,” added Noah, as he reflected on only being accepted by other celebs once the show became successful.

“There was a time when many people didn’t think the show would carry on, they didn’t want it on air. I think in the end, we experienced a lot of success and I’m always grateful for that.”

He said the hardest part of doing The Daily show is how demanding it was. “You don’t stop, you don’t switch off when the show does. It was hard, when I first got to the US I would spend maybe, at the peak, it was maybe 18 hours a day working.”

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Coming home

Noah spoke about being back in South Africa to perform his comedy shows.

“I think we should come up with a new term that goes beyond traffic. Because traffic implies there were cars that couldn’t move because there was congestion. But when we get to a point where traffic lights are out, there’s a roadblock, cars are stopped in the middle of the road… can’t call that traffic,” said the Noah, complaining about being stuck in traffic before the interview.

“New York has mayhem, the difference is you can jump out the car and walk, ride a bicycle,” shared the now US-based Noah.

“It’s been really exciting and really overwhelming. This is not my first time coming home, this is my first time coming home to do shows in many years,” said the comedian, who added that he visits Mzansi regularly. “The biggest gap when I wasn’t home was during Covid.”

“It’s nice to be performing again for South African audiences. Cape Town was phenomenal, Durban was amazing. But coming here, to Joburg and Pretoria, that’s where I started my thing.”

The 39-year-old also shared his thoughts on the current state of South Africa.

“This is not the worst country in the world; it’s not even close to being the worst country in the world. This is a great country, going through a terrible time,” he said.

Noah’s South African tour has been praised for tapping into the country’s unique societal issues, despite him now being based in the US.

“First and foremost, it’s always home. My friends are here, my family is here so the conversations are about what’s happening here. I follow the politics, I follow the news…the only things you have to experience yourself are widespread load shedding, a traffic jam [that turns] into a roadblock.”

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Imposter syndrome

Noah also shared that he’s had to contend with imposter syndrome when he began establishing himself in the US.  

“We take for granted what imposter syndrome is. I think what we don’t understand is, because we are so far removed from the work product, the process, we often do not know the inner-workings of anyone we appreciate.”

“What then happens to us, we can find ourselves in those situations and because nobody has told us what that situation entails, we can be in a space where we don’t feel like we belong there because we’re not matching the inner-monologue that matches the outer dialogue.”  

During his time on The Daily Show, Noah made it a point to celebrate fellow South Africans – such as Thuso Mbedu, Black Coffee and former Miss Universe Zozibini Tunzi – who are doing amazing work on an international stage.

“I remember Black Coffee when he was just blowing up in SA, in certain areas. To then bump into that same name around the world… now he’s doing Maddison Square Garden. You cannot go anywhere, in Europe, South America, Asia without someone saying ‘oh Black Coffee, South Africa’, that’s amazing,” said Noah.

“I’ve loved that I got to share a platform with South Africans who are doing exceptional things within their fields and not have anyone say ‘oh, it’s because they’re South Africans, that’s why they’re on the show.’”

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