On Friday, October 11th, Trevor Noah, the South African comedian and award-winning host of the Daily Show, came to the IU Auditorium as part of his “Loud and Clear” tour. He kicked off the homecoming weekend with two opening acts, including Josh Johnson, a fellow Daily Show writer. I’m familiar with Noah’s political commentary, and I love his memoir Born a Crime, so I jumped at the chance to see him and went to the 7:30 PM show with my mom and younger sister. I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect. Would we get political commentary? Stand-up? The answer was a combination of both.
The show started on the wrong foot. I saw nothing redeeming in the first opener’s act. Granted, comedy is subjective, so maybe the many people who laughed genuinely found him funny, but some of them may also have been uncomfortably laughing at his incredibly unfunny, massively TMI stories about his sexual exploits with his ex-girlfriend. He seems to think dropping the f-bomb every other word the way some people say “like” is equivalent to side-splitting comedy. To be fair, I would have been less uncomfortable with copious amounts of sexual stories (both from this opener and Noah) if I hadn’t attended with my unsmiling mother and slight bemused, barely-teenage sister, but the comic came off as a misogynistic jerk, frequently referring to the women he told stories about with the b-word and joking that the poor, front-row sexagenarians who probably paid over a $100 dollars apiece for this dubious pleasure looked tired because of their heckling wives.
Thankfully, his set ended quickly, and the rest of the show was much more enjoyable. During a second, much more wholesome opening from Johnson, the comic, exasperated, discussed his crazy uncle and complained about the universal struggle of ceiling fan chains, saying “We have self-driving cars, but there’s no indicator of when you’ve pulled the string enough times?” His jokes about the fact that elderly women apparently stab their husbands at a high rate came out of left field, but I generally liked his performance.
As far as I’m concerned, Noah’s set was a net positive. The highlights included calling out the white audience members for their love of “Sweet Caroline,” some spot-on political commentary, including Trump impressions, his childhood love for alien movies, and complaining how much phones negatively impact us. The low point was a set of “German is a scary language” and “effeminate French people” jokes, which I find tired and tasteless, but I know some people enjoy them. I’ve never found Noah outrageously hilarious, but he can be clever when he’s at his best, and he’s entertaining to watch and listen to. I find the obvious glee he delivers his punchlines with and the fact that he can’t help but laugh at his own jokes endearing, and I’m glad I got to see him.