Trevor Noah may be a foreigner in the U.S., but it’s his global perspective that’s made the charismatic South African comic one of the country’s sharpest voices and critics. With a fresh take on American politics, he translates many of our frustrations into hilarious quips, helping us laugh through the political shitshow weeknights on The Daily Show.
When he’s not on set at Comedy Central, Noah’s onstage performing stand-up (watch his recent Netflix special, Afraid of the Dark, for his witty observations on race, immigration and his experiences abroad). Fans can catch the international funnyman May 12–13 when he visits Terry Fator Theatre inside The Mirage.
Noah recently took a break from taping The Daily Show to talk with Vegas Seven about what he’s learned covering American politics, his favorite guests and the one question he’d ask Donald Trump.
Is it an advantage being a non-American and hosting a show focused on American politics?
This is a new age of politics. Anyone who claims to know what is happening, I feel a lot of the times, is proven wrong because it seems like Donald Trump himself is winging it, swinging from one position to another, going from one idea to the next. It feels like we’re all on the same journey … everyone is an outsider to what’s happening right now.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve learned about our country’s political sphere?
The strangest thing is how American politics has evolved to a place where both sides of the spectrum are more concerned with winning for their side than they are for winning for America.
I know you get asked this one a lot, but what was it like interviewing Barack Obama?
It was intimidating. I never thought I’d be sitting across from the President of the United States, let alone [any nation’s] president. I never thought I’d be sitting across from Barack Obama. It was a surreal experience because of where I’ve come from in my life, and because of how many things I feel I share with him: both having a parent from Africa, both being biracial, both struggling with identity [while] growing up and then both getting to a place a lot of people maybe didn’t want us to get to. But it was a really special moment for me and for the show, as well. It was a nice way for us to cap off a long, successful year on The Daily Show. And then we kicked everything off this year and we’ve been going strong ever since.
If you were to interview Trump, what’s the one question you’d want to ask him?
I would want to ask him if he could press a reset button, and if he could start it all again and erase our memories, what would be the story that he’d want to tell us, or, rather, what would he want to kick off on a clean slate? Take the campaign away. Take [away] what people think about him being a celebrity and a billionaire … Take his tweets away. Take everything away and just go: What would you like to do if you could start again from scratch tomorrow?
How did you apply what you learned doing stand-up to being a political satirist? What was the biggest challenge to making that switch?
The biggest challenge isn’t really in terms of satire, because I think satire still exists on the stage. The biggest difference is the format—understanding that you’re performing for somebody at home as opposed to the audience that is in front of you, which is a difficult realization to come to. Understanding that you are trying to create something within the confines of 30 minutes in a night. Also, working to create a show using an entire building, because with stand-up you’re completely free; you’re on your own whereas when you’re working on a show you have to use everybody to help you to put the show on every day because it’s impossible for one person to do it by themselves. That was something that I’ve had to work really hard at and I continue to learn about every single day.
Who’s been your favorite guest on the show?
[Naming a] favorite is difficult because there have been so many. When it comes to celebrities, it’s Will Smith, it’s Jennifer Lopez, it’s Idris Elba. Politicians—I had a great time when Lindsey Graham came to the show. Ben Carson was fun; so was Rand Paul. When it comes to just interesting personalities, Michael Hayden of the CIA was fantastic. We’ve had some really, really interesting people that have come on.
Who is your dream guest for The Daily Show?
Probably Donald Trump. That would be fun, to sit down with him. I’d do my best to honestly give him a good interview where we just talk. I’d love to be in a space where it could be like, “Yo, man”—just a genuine conversation.
You had a genuine conversation with Tomi Lahren, so I’m sure you’d do a good job with Trump.
I afford every guest that comes to my show the same respect, because I’ve invited [them] as a guest, so whether I agree or disagree with [them], whether my views or [theirs] are completely different … [they’re] a guest. I have to treat [them] accordingly, and that’s what I would do for anyone who joins the show.
One last question: When World War III starts, where are you headed?
I’ve always said this to my friends and everyone who knows me: “When World War III starts, trust me, you want to go to Africa.” Because if you’ve watched movies, whether it’s aliens, whether it’s wars—go back and watch them—it never happens in Africa. Aliens never attack Africa. There are no war scenes that take place in Africa. It’s just chilling, doing its own thing. It’s so far out of the way, so Africa is definitely where I’m going.
But District 9 was set in Africa.
Yeah, but that wasn’t a war. In fact, that was the opposite. District 9 was basically [about] aliens [who] had landed in South Africa—they weren’t invading, and then the apartheid government had taken them as prisoners. That’s how hectic the apartheid government was. Aliens came and apartheid basically invaded the aliens. That’s how you know how rough South Africa was.
May 12–13, 10 p.m., $55–$77, Terry Fator Theatre inside The Mirage, mirage.com