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Trevor Noah: The Racist
Published on Friday, 24 August 2012
4

4 stars

Pleasance Courtyard (venue website)
Comedy
1-12, 14-27 Aug, 7:15pm-8:15pm
Reviewed by Martin Lennon

 Recommended for age 16+ only.

Every year, unknown comedians come to Edinburgh from far and wide to try make a name for themselves at the Fringe. This year, Trevor Noah has done just that with his show, The Racist.  If I were to describe 28-year old Noah in one word, if would be ‘gifted’. After a slow, start he manages to deliver a truly memorable hour of comedy which transcends borders and social barriers.

Originally from South Africa, he was born to a black mother and white, Swiss father (he says of his dad, cheekily, “you know how the Swiss love chocolate”). The first part of the show mainly focuses on his experiences growing up, before he moved to America and decided to move to try to make it in the world of comedy. Within these journeys, he is searching for meaning, most of all about what it means to be black. As a storyteller he is able to change his style very easily, flitting lightly from absurd notions like how sexy an in-car GPS voice is, to more serious reflections on growing up during apartheid.

He tells his story with charm and humility which helps create a special relationship with the crowd. His jokes were consistently intelligent and, as the title of the show suggests, the subject matter stayed very topical, but never ventured into the controversial.  He managed to balance his jokes with a unique brand of social realism and ability to make insightful comments about heavy subjects, whether that's dismissing the Ku Klux Klan as the worst magic show he had ever been to, or informing us about the origins of Nelson Mandela's English name (his original, African, name was too difficult to pronounce).

At the start of the show he mentioned he was a slow starter - and while his tales on his first experiences in Ireland and Scotland were funny, they didn’t match the sort of environment he was able to create thereafter. There were a few other jokes that were a bit flat, and his discussion of the racism that the Dutch national football team experienced earlier this year at Euro 2012 just didn't seem to work.

But to lift a line from the other sporting event this summer, Trevor Noah has the ability to inspire a generation.  Comedy, in particular, at the Fringe is not as diverse as we like to imagine it being. More shows like this will hopefully help break those boundaries and make way for a whole new diverse group of comedians to change the face of comedy, regardless of what background they have.  It helps that this show is also incredibly funny.

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These are archived reviews of shows from Edinburgh 2012.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.

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