At L.A.’s political confab Politicon this evening, 31-year-old South African comedian Trevor Noah seemed as at home as an onstage interviewee as he does interviewing his guests as new host of The Daily Show. In fact, maybe more so.
In his first U.S. appearance since taking over Daily Show hosting duties from Jon Stewart in September, Noah brought a packed hall at L.A. Convention Center to its feet by fielding questions from political commentator James Carville as deftly as if the comedian was running for public office himself.
Surprisingly, this interview was no joke-fest. Before sitting down with Carville, Noah had the crowd in hysterics for a half-hour solo set with his sly observations on the quirks of L.A. life and racial politics in the United States (yes, he even invoked the N-word). Once the Q&A began, however, the talk was almost exclusively serious.
Carville drew a laugh by describing the mixed-race Noah as “multicultural, multi-everything,” but otherwise the banter level was kept to a minimum. Noah said he hoped his role as a commentator on the upcoming presidential election would be to provide people with “relief from the craziness” and a chance to vent their frustration in a healthy atmosphere.
Carville brought up Noah’s mocking comments about Hillary Clinton for her recent softball interview with Lena Dunham. Instead of baiting Noah for further Hillary-bashing, Carville asked him to offer some advice for the Democratic Party’s most likely candidate. “I would say to her, stop trying to be, and just be,” he said.
Carville praised Noah for taking on Republican hopeful Ben Carson for his controversial views on how he would prevent recent campus shootings by suggesting that those under attack call the onlookers to their defense. Noah said Carson was right in that “if people rush the gunman (he will kill) less people, but callous in that you are talking about humans, not soldiers.”
Noah was also eloquently critical of the United States as he compared it with his native South Africa. He said that in greater Africa, South Africa is often compared with the U.S. because while it is more technologically advanced than much of Africa, “we are considered to be the most ignorant on the continent.”
He also believes that South Africa may benefit from being more honest about racism and other political topics. “I would love for you to experience the freshness of it all … one thing I’ve never taken for granted is freedom,” Noah said.
Noah pointed out that you can’t change racist ideas if it’s politically incorrect to talk about them. “Let’s start a new conversation,” he said.