Comedian and future host of The Daily Show, Trevor Noah, performed at University of Maryland’s Cole Field House last Saturday displaying a brand of comedy that was international in perspective and often controversial in subject matter.
Noah hails from South Africa, and much of his comedy hinged on this outsider perspective. He began the performance with an enthusiastic “Whoo Whoo!” and remarked that this was an expression unique to America. He joked that the celebratory cry is something only white Americans can enjoy because, for black Americans, “Whoo Whoo!” sounds too much like a police siren.
And that was the other component of his performance: an unflappable commitment to addressing controversial and sensitive topics, most notably race relations in the United States. His longest bit combined this commitment to controversy with his unique outsider perspective.
He recounted his first time being pulled over by the police in America. He said that he was terrified because his only other experiences with the police were the things he saw on television. He invoked the names of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Eric Gardener, making morbid jokes about the circumstances of each of their deaths. It was an audacious move, trying to make light of recent tragedies using comedy, but the joke landed: the entire crowd erupted into laughter.
Before the show started, the line for entry stretched from the front of Cole Field House all the way down to the baseball field. Yet, despite the impressive turnout, there was ambivalence among the crowd. One attendee commented that he “hoped” the show would be good, but he wasn’t confident he would enjoy it. Another said he had watched Comedy Central’s teaser for Noah’s upcoming appearance on the Daily Show and he didn’t find it very funny.
The mood after Noah’s performance was markedly different.
- University of Maryland freshman Nicholas Young said he enjoyed the show and was looking forward to Trevor Noah’s Daily Show premiere.
- Sophomore Daniel Obia-Umauwa enjoyed the show as well and noted he was impressed by Noah’s commitment to more controversial topics.
- Freshman Arden Higginbotham said she wasn’t a fan of The Daily Show but after seeing Noah perform, was willing to start watching.
This sounds like good news for Comedy Central, a network which is facing uncertainty after recently seeing some of its biggest stars pursue other ventures (Colbert, Stewart, Key and Peele). Future stars like Noah, who debuts on September 28th, will have the major burden of keeping a young millenial audience watching the network and his show in particular.