With all new material, his new show, It’s My Culture, takes you with him on his travels from New Zealand to Zambia, New York and London.
It’s My Culture shines Trevor Noah in a global spotlight without ever forgetting where it all started. The craziness of home on the world stage lets everybody know: it’s his culture. At least that is how the undisputed king of South African comedy Trevor Noah captures the attention of his audience. This past weekend he performed to a sold-out show at Boipuso hall in Gaborone and managed to tickle the fancy of his multi-racial audience drawn from all ages.
Noah works hard at his game. He managed to get his audience’s teeth out for the whole time he was on stage, and some of them could still be having their jaws hurting from the laughter.
Noah’s shows are known for their introduction songs and the craziness. His sharp wit, intelligent commentary and unmistakable charm have established him as an extremely popular comedian with undoubted world-class potential. Just because co-workers laugh at a joke, does not mean an audience will. If the audience does not know you, they are not going to have a proper setup on the joke. Therefore, setup is very important. This goes to the organisers of Noah’s show, among them our very own Luzboy. They left promising local comedian Bobo ‘Ribcracker’ Letsatsi feeling like a worthless loser by putting him after Noah’s performance. His name did not ring a bell to the audience who left in many numbers as he started off by introducing himself again and his subject; relationships. Surely, organisers should have known better by making Ribcracker an opening act alongside the coloured Kwa Zulu Natal comedian Robbie.
Once Noah waved bye-bye, people knew it was the end of the show. Pacing is a big issue when you are to make people laugh. If you took a public speaking class in school, your teacher probably told you not to fidget. When you fidget or pace, the listeners are paying attention more to your fidgeting and pacing than your jokes. The key to comedy, as experts often say, is focus and interest. If you can keep the audience focused and interested the whole time you will do extremely well. If you hear talking in the background, know that your words are going downhill. And if it gets worse, do not get shocked if they boo you off stage. David Kau has suffered such a bitter experience in Botswana. In some of the shows, locals first start with cold jokes with the aim of wanting to finish strong, so they would tell their best jokes last. Your last joke should still be funny, and get laughs, just do not make it your best joke. This goes back to focus and interest. You need to get the audience to give you their fullest attention, and focus on what you are saying.
If you start with a really funny joke that makes everyone laugh, it will right away get eyes glued on you with teeth out. Noah, further indicating his interest on current affairs, joked around the issue of praying for rain in Botswana and how traditional doctors have been made a resort. Our boy ribcracker missed it at hello by not only first introducing his subject but also wanting to make the Biblical Joseph and Mary adulterers saying that Mary had a child out of marriage. Comedy is hot and how you start counts. Joke around with issues well. Illustrations matter. The only exception to this is if you are in a comedy contest. In the contest you will want to end with a memorable joke so that the judges can remember you. Professionals can get away with telling sub par jokes at the beginning of their sets because people paid to see them specifically, so they will pay attention to their entire set.
Clearly, Noah jokes about anything but wisely. “I don’t think there is any subject matter I won’t joke about. Everybody can laugh at everything. You just have to find what that thing is. Some people find the best way to get over pain is to laugh,” he said in one of South Africa newspapers. He explains that sometimes, after funerals people are laughing about the fun times they have had with the deceased. “Because I work in the realm of laughter, I think anything can be laughed at. As long as you find the right angle and the thing that is truly funny about it,” he enthuses. Telling a joke that has no punch line, and getting laughs is next to impossible. You may get smiles, but you would not get laughs. If you are only getting smiles, the joke probably is funny, but you probably have an issue with either the wording or the delivery.
Most probably it is a wording issue, because either it does not have a punch line, or the punch line is not located in the right place. In one of the local open mic events at the University of Botswana, there was a new comedian that just talked about premises but never delivered a punch line, and it was a painful set. Those that know the craft make punch lines and that is when body language and facial expressions work most. The abuse of filler words such as ‘uh, um, so’ can also work against you. You sound more professional if you stay away from them. If you memorise all your jokes and the order they appear in your set, you should be able to cut filler words out.
It is also quite humorous when few words are used as possible. Trim as much as possible, but make sure that you still have enough so the audience won’t be in the dark on the setup. Keep it simple and do not complicate the joke. According to Noah, his president Jacob is a gangster. He has many wives. And yes, gangsters often like their ladies many. He gives coloured women credit for being faithful in relationships, but he hates the fact that they do not want to accept a break up and would beat the hell out of any man who dares calls it off. Indian women are beautiful and have the finest hair, which black women often borrow. However, he laughs at their not-so attractive bottom part, which cannot compare to a black woman’s. White women have the most gorgeous legs, but their behind is not appealing, as he likes small-medium size. Clearly, race has always been a big theme in his comedy but apart from being a product of that existence, he executes it in such a way that no one gets angry on stage.
He believes that ‘funny is serious and serious is funny.’ A lot of local comics still want to be cool. But there is usually nothing cool about the acts.
Critically important, local comedians should think outside the box. Joking in mother tongue is ok, but think internationally. Comedy of errors must come to an end.