Interspersed with jokes predominately about police brutality in America, Trevor Noah quieted the audience with thought-provoking anecdotes.
Noah, the South African comedian who will host The Daily Show this fall, said Saturday evening his greatest struggle since moving to New York City has been learning how not to die in America.
Noah cited the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Eric Garner, saying he used their stories to create a checklist of things to avoid doing as a black man living in America.
“You know that when a police officer is approaching your vehicle, you don’t make any sudden movements,” Noah said. “You turn into the friendly black man, not the angry black man.”
Something he learned about racism in America is if you’re a black man driving a nice car, the police will pull you over because they assume it was stolen, Noah said.
“I wasn’t offended,” Noah said, referencing a time when a police officer pulled him over while driving in Los Angeles. “I was a little flattered. Turns out I was speeding.”
Throughout his show, which was hosted by this university’s Student Entertainment Events department, or SEE, Noah changed his tone from loud and animated to quiet and reflective.
The switch caused audience members to lean forward in their seats, hanging on to Noah’s every word. In these moments, Noah would be serious with the audience about today’s issues instead of joking about them.
“In society, we don’t give people a chance to acknowledge their prejudices,” Noah said.
SEE organized Noah’s visit to signify the last significant venue before construction begins on this university’s historic Cole Field House. Renovations are set to begin in the next month or so, a roughly $155 million project that will expand the building’s operations and overall departments.
Jackie Budko, a freshman journalism major, said she enjoyed the different mannerisms Noah incorporated into his show.
“Trevor Noah was fantastic. It was great how he incorporated his surroundings into his act, especially when poking fun at the signer. I think it was smart how he avoided the local issues regarding racism and focused more on the national issues,” Budko said.
Hugo Santos, a freshman economics major, agreed, noting his successful presentation of uncomfortable material.
“I liked how he incorporated a lot of serious political topics with his humor,” Santos said. “Issues that people are frequently uncomfortable talking about, he brought up with ease because of his approach.”
Noah described one of his own prejudices: he prefers to fly on Middle Eastern airlines because he said it’s less likely that those planes will be taken over by terrorists. Noah said he finds comfort in knowing that, if someone were to stand up and start speaking Arabic, there’s a higher chance on a Middle Eastern flight of another passenger being able to translate what’s happening.
“Half of the terror is not knowing,” Noah said.
Featured Photo Credit: Screenshot courtesy of Trevor Noah: African American.
Reporter Julia Lerner contributed to this article.
Maya Pottiger is a junior journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.