There is a real freshness about South African comedian Trevor Noah who appeared at Nottingham’s Glee Club with his latest show The Racist on Sunday evening. He does not rely on crude humour or bad language in his routines and while he is not afraid to talk about politics and race he does so with a wide-eyed innocence which is instantly likeable.
After a short pre-amble in which he mock-confesses that the first part of the show could be ‘awkward’ Noah quickly revealed himself to be an accomplished comedian who was fully at ease on stage. His began with a few observations about life in the UK (it’s cold, dark and there is no mobile phone reception) before weaving insightful stories about life on the road, touring around Africa, growing up during apartheid and the fact that he was the product of an ‘illegal’ relationship (Noah has a white, Swiss father and a black South African mother). Growing up in a township with his mother and extended family he was not even allowed to be seen with his father and there is no bitterness or world-weariness in his tales; the horrors of apartheid are there in the background but what shines through is the humour that permeates family life.
Towards the end of the show, Noah tells us he can speak six languages and indeed it is his command of language that makes him such a pleasure to watch. He moves deftly from black American slang to Spanish to the German he learnt by inadvertently by listening to Hitler’s speeches. Race – and by extension language and culture – are the dominant themes in this show and Noah is able to subvert our notions of what these mean through playfulness rather than lecturing. He didn’t even need to win over the audience; he was greeted warmly from the beginning and he was rewarded with rapturous applause by the end.