Jun 21, 2022
Trevor Noah: The 60 Minutes Interview Transcript
Lesley Stahl speaks with “The Daily Show” host Trevor Noah about growing up in apartheid-era South Africa and his career as a standup comedian. Read the transcript here.
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Speaker 1: (00:05)
Look across the landscape of late night television and you’ll see that most of the hosts are white men in their forties and fifties, but not Trevor Noah. He’s biracial. He’s not American, and he’s only 38. But he’s a certified celebrity with a global following who has brought an international dimension to Comedy Central’s The Daily Show. He’s from South Africa where he grew up under apartheid. He called his memoir Born A Crime because it was illegal for a black woman, like his mother, and a white man, like his father, to mix. As we first reported in December, Trevor says he’s always felt like an outsider, but his humor, making people laugh, has been his ticket to belonging.
Speaker 2: (00:59)
The story will continue in a moment.
Speaker 1: (01:06)
Trevor Noah is back on tour with his comedy show in a different city practically every weekend.
Trevor Noah: (01:13)
Yeah. Like when you’re in Texas, they’ll be like, “You got any weapons in the vehicle?” You’re like, “No, sir.” They’re like, “All right. Here’s one. Here you go. You all have a good night now.”
Speaker 1: (01:22)
He loves owning the stage. The roar of the big crowd, typically 15,000, in giant arenas like this one in Washington, DC.
Speaker 4: (01:32)
All right, buddy. Here we go. We’re about to start taping our monologue. That’s all.
Speaker 1: (01:35)
It’s a far cry from his more confined TV studio day job on The Daily Show where he had a shaky start when he took over six years ago from John Stewart.
Trevor Noah: (01:46)
And now it feels like the family has a new stepdad and he’s black.
Speaker 1: (01:55)
Was it a good decision?
Trevor Noah: (01:56)
Speaker 1: (01:58)
I know. Awful.
Trevor Noah: (02:00)
Don’t take The Daily Show, Leslie, when they offer it to you. Whatever you do, don’t take The Daily Show.
Speaker 1: (02:04)
What happened in the beginning?
Trevor Noah: (02:06)
Oh, I mean, everybody hated me. People didn’t even know me and they hated the idea of me.
Speaker 1: (02:10)
But you did have a savior, Donald Trump.
Trevor Noah: (02:13)
Once you realize that Trump is basically the perfect African president, you start to notice the similarities everywhere. Pigeon.
Speaker 1: (02:21)
Once he found his foil-
Trevor Noah: (02:22)
The secret document [inaudible 00:02:24]-
Speaker 1: (02:24)
… his ratings began to improve and he realized he could connect American politics to his background in South Africa. He grew up in Johannesburg and its black township of Soweto during the strict racial separation regime of apartheid. He always felt like an outsider, not quite black like his Xhosa mother, not quite white like his Swiss father who he has seen infrequently in his life.
Speaker 1: (02:54)
To be with your father who was white, that was a crime.
Trevor Noah: (02:56)
Yeah. This was the law that forbade anybody of different races from mixing.
Speaker 1: (03:01)
There’s something I heard. I’m not sure I believe it. But your grandfather used to call you Master?
Trevor Noah: (03:08)
Speaker 1: (03:09)
Because of the color of your skin?
Trevor Noah: (03:10)
That’s how he referred to me, Master. And he’d always force me to sit in the back of the car. Be like, “Master, what can the police say if I said that Master is sitting with me?”
Speaker 1: (03:20)
Your parents, your grandmother particularly, was always afraid the police were going to come-
Trevor Noah: (03:24)
Speaker 1: (03:24)
… and find you. What would’ve happened if they found you?
Trevor Noah: (03:28)
I probably would’ve been taken away to an orphanage.
Speaker 1: (03:30)
Trevor Noah: (03:31)
Speaker 1: (03:32)
Your grandmother was always hiding you.
Trevor Noah: (03:34)
Speaker 1: (03:34)
You were in lockdown.
Trevor Noah: (03:36)
Right. I was in pandemic before pandemic even existed.
Speaker 1: (03:39)
But you were poor. You write in your book about eating worms and having a toy that was a brick.
Trevor Noah: (03:48)
Here’s the thing that I always say to people. Being poor in a group or in a community that is poor is not as bad as being poor when you know what you’re missing out on. So when I grew up, we played with bricks as cars and you’d smash them into each other, and it was one of the most fun games I’ve ever played. The same thing with eating mopane worms. What I didn’t like was when we couldn’t eat anything else and my mom said, “We’re going to have to eat these mopane worms for longer because we don’t have money to buy chicken.”
Speaker 1: (04:19)
Spending time indoors, he became a voracious reader. He wrote about his mother, Patricia Noah, in his memoir Born A Crime, saying she raised him almost as if he was white with no limitations on what he could achieve. He wrote it was just the two of them, him and his mom against the world. But then she married a man named Abel, who he said beat up his mother then shot her in the head.
Trevor Noah: (04:48)
The head bullets didn’t hit anything vital, other than the head obviously. But it missed her spinal cord, missed the nerves, didn’t touch the brain. And all it did was it cut a piece of her nostril off, just one side. And the bullet went out clean. And my mom looks at me and she goes, “Trevor, Trevor, don’t cry, baby.” I said, “No, Mom. I’m going to cry. You were shot in the head.” And she says, “No, no, no, no. Look on the bright side.” I said, “What bright side?” She says, “No, at least now, because of my nose, you’re officially the best looking person in the family.”
Speaker 1: (05:24)
You did say you had the black world and you had the white world. And this is a quote from you, “All I wanted to do was belong.”
Trevor Noah: (05:31)
Everybody wants to belong. Half of our fights in life are because we want to belong. And so I grew up in a country where I was told that your belonging was defined by the shade of the color of your skin, and that never worked for me. You know? I found my greatest joy was with the people where we shared interests and the way we spoke and the way we laughed, et cetera. So I always wanted to belong. And that I think has been a gift and a curse in life.
Speaker 1: (05:59)
I have a funny feeling that you did belong because you were funny.
Trevor Noah: (06:04)
Funny is something that I developed as a tool, yeah, to belong.
Speaker 1: (06:09)
He was funny back in Johannesburg, but became a professional comedian by accident when he was 22 and took the stage at a comedy club on a dare from his cousin.
Trevor Noah: (06:20)
Yeah, you laugh, but it’s true. Because I’m like mixed, I’ve got like a percentage share. It’s that type of thing.
Speaker 1: (06:25)
He killed it. Gave up his plan to go to college, and soon was touring all over the world as a standup comic. According to Forbes, he’s one of the highest paid comedians today. He first started touring the United States in 2011, and a year later-
Trevor Noah: (06:45)
From the time I was a young child, I’ve always wanted one thing, and that is I’ve always wanted to be black.
Speaker 1: (06:50)
… he was on The Tonight Show and caught the attention of John Stewart’s producer at The Daily Show, a Viacom CBS property. When he was eventually offered the host chair, he said it would’ve meant taking a pay cut and giving up his life on the road so Stewart had to talk him into it.
Trevor Noah: (07:08)
He said, “I’m not offering you the glitz and glam of your life. I’m offering you a home for a while that I think you will come to enjoy.” That intrigued me. I was like, I’ve always wanted to have home. I’ve always wanted to belong. And so I thought, well, this could be the chance.
Speaker 5: (07:24)
From Trevor’s couch in New York City-
Speaker 1: (07:26)
And the chance to weigh in on serious topics. When COVID hit, and he was broadcasting from his apartment, nearly 11 million people watched his monologue on race and George Floyd.
Trevor Noah: (07:40)
There was a black man on the ground in handcuffs and you could take his life, so you did, almost knowing that there would be no ramifications.
Speaker 1: (07:49)
And it wasn’t funny. And now we have a new dimension to Trevor.
Trevor Noah: (07:54)
I guess. I guess you’ve seen a different dimension to Trevor. I’ve always had the different dimension.
Speaker 1: (07:59)
Well, you showed it to the public.
Trevor Noah: (08:01)
Speaker 1: (08:02)
Some of the funniest people we know on the planet have depression. You come to mind.
Trevor Noah: (08:09)
Well, I think over the years what I’ve come to learn, thanks to some great therapists, is my depression is created by a severe level of ADHD.
Speaker 1: (08:19)
ADHD looks like depression? What do you mean?
Trevor Noah: (08:23)
So it can be different for different people. You know? So for myself, it means that if I’m not careful in how I sleep, how I eat, how I manage my routine, I can become overwhelmed and it can just feel like the whole world is just too heavy to bear.
Speaker 1: (08:40)
You said something that sticks with me. You said it wasn’t until you came to the United States that real hate started coming at you.
Trevor Noah: (08:51)
Oh yeah, definitely.
Speaker 1: (08:52)
What was the hate that you felt? Did the cops ever stop you?
Trevor Noah: (08:57)
I’ve been pulled over quite frequently by the cops. Yeah. One of my best friends, David Meyer, would drive all over the west coast to these comedy shows. If I was driving, we would get pulled over.
Speaker 1: (09:07)
And if he was driving?
Trevor Noah: (09:07)
And then he would drive, we wouldn’t get pulled over.
Speaker 1: (09:09)
But you did say you experienced hate.
Trevor Noah: (09:12)
Yes. But I mean, that’s welcome to America. You know?
Speaker 1: (09:16)
Oh, that’s harsh.
Trevor Noah: (09:18)
Yeah. There’s a lot of hate in America because there’s a lot of anger in America.
Speaker 1: (09:22)
How is it changing you?
Trevor Noah: (09:24)
For me, I’m always trying to figure out how do I speak to somebody who hates me?
Trevor Noah: (09:28)
This is where we are for now.
Speaker 1: (09:29)
Because of his childhood, growing up between two different worlds, he tends to see both sides of an argument. Take his reaction to the trouble his friend, comedian Dave Chappelle, got in over his Netflix special The Closer-
Dave Chappelle: (09:45)
We blacks, we look at the gay community-
Speaker 1: (09:46)
… that was criticized as homophobic, transphobic and misogynistic. In your mind, did he cross the line?
Trevor Noah: (09:53)
Did Dave Chappelle cross the line? Yes. No. It immediately puts me in a position where I have to choose a side when I think that the matter is a lot more complex than that. I think everybody is defining the line for themselves.
Speaker 1: (10:06)
No, society defines a line.
Trevor Noah: (10:08)
You see, what you’re saying now is you’re saying society has decided. But America is clearly divided in that half of society has gone like, “No, Dave Chappelle, we love what you said. We’re sick of wokeness. We’re sick of people being told what to say. We’re sick of not knowing how to use the right pronoun. You’re right, Dave Chappelle.” So then if half of society is saying Dave Chappelle is right, and half of society is saying that he’s wrong, then that means there is no line. It means society is seeing the line from two different sides. And so that’s why I say you cannot say did he cross the line, because which side are you looking at the line from defines whether or not he crossed it.
Speaker 1: (10:42)
Are you still learning things all the time?
Trevor Noah: (10:43)
Speaker 1: (10:44)
Well, he’s had to learn about New York City, his new home since 2015. Buy an apartment here. Make new friends. Let me ask you about your personal life for a minute. Do you want to have children?
Trevor Noah: (10:57)
I go back and forth. Sometimes I will meet kids who make me go, “I want a kid.” And then sometimes I’ll meet children where I go, “I hope that my sperm doesn’t do anything because this person is a terror.”
Speaker 1: (11:10)
Trevor Noah: (11:12)
Speaker 1: (11:12)
You’re right there.
Trevor Noah: (11:12)
Speaker 1: (11:12)
That’s the clock. It’s ticking.
Trevor Noah: (11:14)
Speaker 1: (11:15)
But you don’t feel it?
Trevor Noah: (11:16)
No, I don’t.
Speaker 1: (11:17)
You have a girlfriend now?
Trevor Noah: (11:19)
Speaker 1: (11:21)
Well, I read Page Six like everybody else in this world.
Trevor Noah: (11:25)
Oh, yes. Oh, the tabloids.
Speaker 1: (11:26)
You don’t like to talk about your girlfriends?
Trevor Noah: (11:30)
Speaker 1: (11:31)
What is Trevor like with his girlfriends?
David Kibuuka: (11:33)
Trevor Noah: (11:34)
It’s a trick. You don’t have to answer that question.
Speaker 1: (11:35)
Yes, he does. Trevor introduced us to comedy producer Ryan Harduth and comedian David Kibuuka, now a supervising producer on The Daily Show. They’re among his oldest friends from South Africa. Answer it.
Trevor Noah: (11:49)
You don’t have to answer any questions about personal relationships.
David Kibuuka: (11:50)
Speaker 1: (11:51)
Well, who told you that?
Trevor Noah: (11:51)
Okay. What is Mitch McConnell like with his girlfriends? Do you know the answer to that question?
David Kibuuka: (11:55)
I don’t know.
Trevor Noah: (11:55)
David Kibuuka: (11:56)
Because he didn’t answer it.
Trevor Noah: (11:57)
Because they don’t even ask him.
David Kibuuka: (11:58)
And also because people don’t want to know. This is what I’ll say about Trevor with his girlfriends, is that-
Trevor Noah: (12:03)
So you’re just fully going ahead with this?
David Kibuuka: (12:05)
Speaker 1: (12:05)
Of course he is.
David Kibuuka: (12:05)
Trevor Noah: (12:06)
David Kibuuka: (12:07)
Is that he is very, very… Like a great boyfriend.
Speaker 1: (12:19)
So what are the qualities that you like most about Trevor?
Ryan Harduth: (12:24)
He’s a great boyfriend.
David Kibuuka: (12:25)
Speaker 1: (12:29)
Trevor told us he hangs out with these guys often and talks with his mother every day. Things he says that keep him grounded. Is he a perfectionist?
Ryan Harduth: (12:40)
No. I wouldn’t say he’s a perfectionist.
Speaker 1: (12:42)
David Kibuuka: (12:44)
Ryan Harduth: (12:44)
Yes, I would say so.
David Kibuuka: (12:45)
Speaker 1: (12:46)
He sure is. Even though he does The Daily Show during the week and has hosted the Grammy Awards for the past two years, he refuses to give up his comedy shows.
Trevor Noah: (12:58)
Genuinely, I just love the feeling of a laugh. I think when we laugh as human beings, that’s when we are our most authentic selves. That’s why your real laugh is so ugly. Do you know what I mean? It’s not filtered in any way. I love that. It’s like pure joy. Forget what people think, just laugh. You know? We need it every single day. Every single day.
Speaker 9: (13:26)
Watch Trevor Noah and his team write a Daily Show joke at sixtyminutesovertime.com, sponsored by Cologuard.