When Trevor Noah succeeded Jon Stewart as host of “The Daily Show” last year, the 32-year-old South African comedian had huge shoes to fill. Could he prove himself a worthy successor? Who was he, anyway? In his fascinating memoir, Born a Crime, we get to know Comedy Central’s import, and the evidence is clear: Challenges are nothing new to Noah.
Born in 1984 to a Swiss father and a black mother, Noah was living proof that his parents had violated the law forbidding “illicit” relationships between whites and blacks. His mixed looks marked him as an outsider. Growing up without his father, he moved with his fearless, fanatical mother between the black and white townships near Johannesburg, rarely feeling accepted anywhere. Poverty precluded any hope of escape.
Engaging and insightful, Born a Crime is not a rags-to-riches story; the memoir ends before Noah finds success. Instead, the book reveals the hard details of a grim life: a mother and son who, together, survived the cruelties of apartheid and domestic violence. Ironically, today it is Noah’s perspective as an outsider that serves him so well in his starring role in U.S. comedy.