Trevor Noah Says the Left and the Right Can Agree on at Least One Thing

Parting Shot Trevor Noah
Robby Klein/Contour/Getty

"I do believe that keeping the world moving forward is a team effort."

If there is one comedian uniquely qualified to contextualize the chaotic events of 2020, it's The Daily Show's Trevor Noah. From COVID-19 to the Black Lives Matter movement, Noah has been a voice for those stuck at home trying to make sense of it all: "I don't believe that the world is ending, but I do believe that keeping the world moving forward is a team effort." Noah says he's most comfortable doing the show when things aren't going smoothly, noting, "Finding my groove is less important than creating an honest show where we're doing our best to inform the audience and still remember to laugh whenever we can." With the election upon us, Noah thinks there's one thing that both the left and the right can agree on: Social media is making things worse. He says, "We can all agree that social media is inflaming tensions, inciting hatred and insulating us in bubbles that don't reflect the nuance of the real world." That said, Noah feels 2020 has also shown that "we're more connected than we've been made to believe and we can do more if we raise up the most vulnerable in our society."

When did you feel like you had found your groove hosting The Daily Show? Was there a particular moment?

As strange as it sounds, I've found myself most comfortable and most in the groove when things are not normal. First, it was being live at the conventions in 2016, then it was after Trump won the election and now it's making the show from my apartment during a pandemic. I don't think there's ever been one particular moment because I'm constantly working on improving the show and improving how I communicate with my audience. Finding my groove is less important than creating an honest show where we're doing our best to inform the audience and still make sure that we remember to laugh whenever we can.

Your perspective is so unique in the media landscape, which is why The Daily Show is so successful. Do you ever feel a sense of pressure to respond to a big event in a certain way?

I see it as less of a duty and more of an opportunity to use our platform for good. These are issues that we speak about when the cameras aren't rolling and so maybe the show is successful because we're creating something that's organic and also entertaining. I don't believe that the world is ending, but I do believe that keeping the world moving forward is a team effort that we should all share. I'm lucky to have a team and an audience that shares in those values and beliefs.

On the show or even in your comedy, do you ever struggle over entertainment vs. impact? And do you think comedians have a duty to have an impact politically, especially in 2020?

I think comedians have a duty to jokes, and strangely enough, jokes have a duty to the truth. People often laugh at a comedy show because the truest things are said in jest. Comedy is the spoonful of sugar that makes the medicine go down, and in 2020, there's more medicine than ever. We don't ever struggle over entertainment vs impact, we respond to what's happening in the news and that often dictates the flow of the show.

The Daily Show from home has been a lifeline for so many stuck at home. Are you eager to get back to the studio?

I'm definitely eager to get back to the studio, but I'm also eager to keep my staff safe and not force people to risk their health to come in when schools haven't even fully opened in NYC. We're really lucky to still have the ability to make a show from home, and so right now I don't think about the studio, I think about the election, I think about coronavirus, I think about Black Lives Matter, I think about people's jobs, and I think about what we can do to help keep people sane while living through one of the craziest periods in human history.

From COVID-19 to police shootings to the election, 2020 hasn't exactly been a stellar year. What lessons do you think we'll be able to take from 2020?

The biggest lesson I hope we learn from this moment in time is that we're more connected than we've been made to believe, and we can do more if we raise up the most vulnerable in our society. Hopefully, parents won't have to choose between work and kids in the future, hopefully, we'll remember that the health of others can also affect our own and hopefully we'll remember what a difference it made when the government provided financial assistance to people who'd lost their jobs. Hopefully we'll remember, period.

There's so much political division right now, comedy is often the key to connecting different types of people. What's one thing you think the left and the right can relate on these days?

That social media is destroying our ability to coexist with our fellow humans. Whether left or right, I think we can all agree that social media is inflaming tensions, inciting hatred and insulating us in bubbles that don't reflect the nuance of the real world.

Do you think the current BLM movement shares anything with the movement to dismantle apartheid in your native South Africa? Are there any comparisons that might offer nuance to this moment?

I think any movement that fights for the equal and fair treatment of a people who are being oppressed will have similarities. The fight for freedom in South Africa was a fight to secure equal rights for people of color in a country where their rights had been suppressed. Black Americans from the very inception of America, have been fighting for the very same.

How has the Trump presidency impacted comedy?

To be honest, I don't think he's had that much of an impact. Comedians were joking about Bush and also joking about Clinton. So really any leader will find themselves in the routines of stand-up comedians. If anything Donald Trump has completely subsumed the news cycle and so everyone everywhere is always talking about Trump, which isn't great because then that means there are a lot of other issues that slip through the cracks.