When it comes to Mzansi’s greatest exports, Trevor Noah is up there with the best of them. There’s no denying he was born to be a star.

Trevor was born to a Xhosa mother and Swedish father during the apartheid era, when mixed-race couples were ‘illegal’ in South Africa. It is for this reason that his biography is cleverly titled Born a Crime. Dedicated to his mother, Patricia Noah, who he calls his first fan, it chronicles his journey growing up in Soweto as a mixed-race child. The book received a thumbs up from Microsoft founder Bill Gates and has collected an impressive list of accolades since it's 2016 release, including the Thurber Prize for American Humour, two literacy awards at the NAACP Image Awards and a Zora Neale Hurston Award, that recognises outstanding contributions to the promotion of African American literature.


‘When you write a book, first you hope it makes sense,’ Trevor told the Colombus Dispatch after winning the Thurber Prize. ‘Second, you hope that someone will read it. When that happens, everything else is a dream.’

That wasn’t where the dream ended for the 34-year-old comedian. Born a Crime is now being turned into a biopic with Oscar-winning Kenyan-Mexican actress Lupita Nyong’o set to star as Patricia Noah. Trevor is producing the film, which is directed by South African director Liesl Tommy.


Trevor’s charm, superb storytelling ability and humour won him the position of host of The Daily Show, the hugely popular late-night American talk show. After hosting the show for 17 years, Trevor’s predecessor Jon Stewart astounded viewers by announcing that he was hanging up his shoes, saying, ‘It is time for someone else to have the opportunity.’ The person given that opportunity, in September 2015, was none other than Trevor Noah. All eyes were on him and boy, did he step up and fill Jon’s shoes!

‘When I started, I was so absorbed in fear of failure that I did not take time to enjoy the fact that I was hosting The Daily Show.'

However, since taking over one of Comedy Central’s most popular shows, the towering funny man managed to bag a GLAAD award for Outstanding Talk Show episode, an MTV Movie Award for Best Host and a nomination at the 70th Emmy Awards in the Best Variety Talk Series category.

However, before he’d even taken up the chair as host, he won his first-ever Emmy at the Creative Arts ceremony in the Best Short Form Variety Series category for his YouTube special for the show.

So how did the South African comedian land the role of a lifetime? He almost didn’t. Trevor was doing a tour in the UK when he received a call from Jon Stewart, offering him the job. He declined, because he was doing what he loves most. ‘I enjoy doing stand-up,’ he told Carlos Watson, editor of the international online news magazine OZY. ‘I love it with all my heart. I love making people laugh.’ His reply to Jon’s proposal was, ‘I am flattered, but I am busy.’ Little did he know that he had just declined the offer of one of the most coveted jobs on American TV! Jon asked that Trevor pay the show a visit should he ever visit New York City, which he did weeks later – and the rest is history.

Trevor started as a contributor on the show in 2014, and was announced as the man to fill Jon’s shoes the following year. ‘He will earn your love and trust… or not,’ Jon joked. He most certainly did!

In a recent interview with Breaking Big, a new documentary series on Facebook Watch that documents journeys of some the most prominent stars around the world, Trevor joked that he was hoping his mother ‘watches the documentary and starts believing that I’m not a drug dealer!’


In the Breaking Big interview, Trevor said humour runs in his family and he gets it from his mother. ‘I cannot deny that I am a product of many things my mother put in place in my life,’ he said. He also credits her love of literature for his multilingual skills. Growing up in impoverished surroundings, one thing Trevor knew was that he could make people laugh, and his knack for languages set him apart from other comedians.

After only three years in the comedy industry, he did what most would consider highly risky – he decided to do his first one-man show, titled The Day Walker.

‘If you wait for people to tell you when it’s your turn, you will never get it,’ he told Breaking Big. ‘I don’t think you should allow people to tell you how fast or slowly you should move in life.’

Just before Trevor’s first show, the Noah family was traumatised when his mother was shot in the head by his abusive step-father. Miraculously, she survived and didn’t sustain any long-term injury.

‘The only reason we came out of it strong was because of my mom,’ he says. ‘She was a rock!’ Patricia’s strength is evident in an interview with You Laugh But it’s True, a David Paul Meyer documentary about Trevor’s preparation for Day Walker. ‘I don’t cry about the past,’ Patricia said. ‘I am at peace.’

Trevor wanted to cancel his show at the time, but Patricia would have none of it. He went on stage in front of an audience of more than 3 000 and had them laughing their socks off! Today, millions are tuning in to his show and his new book will be released in the coming months.


  • He loves travelling.
  • Eddie Murphy is among his favourite comedians.
  • He enjoys spending time with friends and family and having a good laugh.
  • He admires Ugandan writer Joseph Opio.
  • When he eats at one of his favourite restaurants, he sometimes orders three main meals!
  • Australia is one of his favourite travel destinations.


  • Before his big break, he appeared on The Tonight Show and Late Night With David Letterman – the first South African to do so.
  • At the age of 18, he appeared on SABC 3’s popular soapie, Isidingo: The Need.
  • He speaks seven languages.
  • He dislikes wasting people’s time.
  • His greatest fear is living a life of regret.

Text Koketso Mashika


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