Trevor Noah May 12, the Mirage.
It’s a good time to be Trevor Noah. The South African comedian had some trouble finding his footing upon first filling Jon Stewart’s giant shoes on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show. But as with other talk-show hosts and political comedians (specifically, Stephen Colbert), the mania of the 2016 presidential election and Trump’s moves since have helped crystalize Noah’s point of view. And now that he has steadied his news show, the comic—and his audience—can focus on his expanded live repertoire.
The 33-year-old broke through in the U.S. with the 2013 stand-up special African American, aired seemingly nonstop on Showtime upon its release. His act at the time focused on the cultural adjustments of moving to America and what he saw as odd customs in the United States. The same shtick was on display Friday night at the Mirage, during Noah’s first-ever Vegas performance.
To wit: He has no use for surprise parties and insists the same is true for all black people. “Surprise birthdays are not something black people enjoy,” he says. “Black people don’t enjoy surprises. Haven’t black people been surprised enough in history?”
On the other hand, ordering fast food from his car had been a dream ever since he saw the film Good Burger. “Drive-thru is the pinnacle of privilege, people,” he says. “That’s how you know things are good. When you’ve gotten to a place as a nation where you can say, ‘I know I’m hungry, but not enough to get out of the car,’ you’re living a good life.”
That type of outside-looking-in perspective is one of Noah’s strengths. When he plays with subjects that have been through the comedic ringer—from how undershirts earned the nickname wife-beater to, dishearteningly, his own “what happens in Vegas” take—he isn’t nearly as tuned in as when the work is personal to him.
Noah smashed a 10-minute chunk on getting tacos for the first time, recalling his confusion when the proprietor of the taco truck offered him a napkin, which happens to mean “baby diaper” in South Africa. “I’m sorry, why would I want a napkin?”
“For the mess afterwards,” the proprietor answered.
“For the mess? How instant is it that I’ll need it?”
“Hey man, you never know with tacos. One minute you think you got it. The next minute it’s coming out.”
“No, it’s part of the experience. Everybody gets used to it. Grab a napkin and join in. Don’t worry.”
Noah’s Trump material was also sharpened. He concluded that the president and Melania must be fighting in private, given that the latter wants to end cyber-bullying despite the former’s reputation as a Twitter troll, and that Trump wants to deport immigrants even though he married one.
A few bits could have been tighter, but all in all this was one of the year’s more impressive stand-up performances in Las Vegas.