A Jewish Reader Comments On Trevor Noah's Identity Crisis
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Re: James Fulford's blog post Trevor Noah On The Murderous Miners Of Marikana

From: Norm [Email him]

James Fulford wrote:

Trevor Noah is a half black (Xhosa) half-Jewish South African comedian, whose biography Born A Crime references the fact that under Apartheid, his parents' marriage would have been illegal. When he was tapped to replace Jon Stewart in the Daily Show, he got in trouble for having made "insensitive" jokes on Twitter, including Jewish jokes, which he feels he's entitled to make, since (a) his father is Jewish, and (b) he's literally named Noah.

Just a slight correction: Noah's father is Swiss, gentile so far as I can tell. His mother is African Xhosa. The Xhosa were the ones who took over the country after Apartheid, which may also explain why Noah isn't too critical of the government. (One wonders if tribal affiliation is a factor in these latest events.) I do recall Noah mocking the previous president, who to be honest was kind of mockable, and so looked him up...and he was a Zulu. Well then.

The Jewish part seems to come from his mother, who he claims converted to Judaism when he was 10 or 11. (He did not convert.) I have a more-than-sneaking suspicion that this was one of those, "Oh, I feel kind of Jewish today" phases for her. Or to be really cynical, there was a phone call: "Mom, I made some anti-Semitic remarks. If anyone asks you, tell them you're Jewish."

Noah, as you point out, makes a big deal about his parents' marriage being illegal and how that shaped his youth. Except:

  • By the time Noah was born, the miscegenation laws were on the way out.
  • They were entirely repealed by the time he was about a year old, so he'd have no memory of them at all.
  • His father seems to have walked out possibly even before then, but certainly very early on, and at the most Noah seems to barely have ever had much of a relationship with him.
  • Mandela was out of jail when Noah was six years old and the blacks were fully in charge when he was ten.

Take that all into account, and a big part of Noah's appeal and shtick (which to be honest can be funny) disappears. He's just another dude from Africa.

See previous letters from the same reader.

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