For GQ’s comedy issue, Daily Show host-to-be Trevor Noah finally addressed those old Twitter jokes that have proven to be a popularity hurdle for the South African comedian. He admitted to writer Zach Baron that the old Noah who penned those tweets was idiotic at the time, infusing his ultimate damage-control response with a sense of optimism and maturation. (Genuine? Your call.) “You show me half my jokes from even two years ago, three years ago — I hate them. Because you see, like, a young version of yourself. You’re like, Why would you say that? You idiot! That makes no sense. Or, That’s just stupid. Or, Ahh, I can’t believe I said that about a woman. You should not like what you did back then, because that shows that you’ve grown. If you’re still doing it, that’s a scarier place to be,” Noah told GQ. “So that’s a great thing for me. When I get a chance to look back and go: I was an idiot.”
For the profile, Noah also discussed his complex upbringing in apartheid-era South Africa, his family history, and his culturally chameleonic sense of humor. Here are a few more gems from the profile, including:
How he’ll change Jon Stewart’s iteration of The Daily Show:
I have a very vague picture of the show right now. … It’ll be like a face-lift. Because, don’t get it twisted, I’m a big fan of The Daily Show, and that’s what it’s still gonna be. It’s still gonna be The Daily Show. It’s the same way, when Fallon took over from Leno, it’s still The Tonight Show. … Just the mere fact that I’m gonna be there in the chair changes a whole bunch of the show, you know?
How he tragically learned “If you can’t laugh, you have nothing”:
My little brother [called], and he’s like, ‘Hey, Trevor.’ I’m like, ‘Hey, what’s up?’ He’s like, ‘Are you busy?’ I’m like, ‘No, I’m sort of sleeping. What’s going on?’ He’s like, ‘Mom’s just been shot.’ … [After church, my stepfather found them and had] started shooting, and my brothers ran for their lives, and … my mom got shot, shot once in the torso, and another bullet went in her head. She got shot in the head, you know? And my brother — to this day, the hero — he grabbed my mom, threw her in the car, blood gushing everywhere, drove her to the hospital. …
The bullet missed everything, went into the back of her head, missed her spine, missed all the nerves, everything, went through, didn’t hit the brain, just went through the bottom, just under the brain, just smashed into her eye socket, which then deflected the bullet, and it came out of her nose. … She says [to me afterward in the hospital], ‘No, no. Please, look at the bright side. I’m still here. Just be grateful that I’m still here.’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, but still.’ She says, ‘And on an even brighter side … look at my nose. I’ve got half a nose now. So now you’re officially the best-looking person in the family. There’s no contest.’
How he feels now about his breakout, albeit contentious, Stateside Leno performance:
I look back on it and I go, Had I known, I would’ve done it differently. Because when you come from a different place, you don’t realize the minefield you’re walking into. … I do know this: I continued doing the Leno bit after I’d done it on Leno. But the way I did it slash would do it today is completely different. I’ve now learned how to be emotionally aware of how people may use your joke in a negative way. And that’s something that you’re always trying to navigate in comedy. You know, Dave Chappelle talked about it as well — if you’re not careful, someone can use your words to hurt somebody else. … I hadn’t fully understood the African-American experience. I hadn’t read the books; I hadn’t met the people; I hadn’t traveled the country.
How the backlash he received upon his TDS promotion news, at least in part, makes sense to him:
A guy doesn’t leave and another guy comes in and there’s no backlash. That never, ever happens. When Michael B. Jordan got cast as the new Human Torch in Fantastic Four, there was backlash, because they were like, How can this fictional character be a black man? The new storm trooper from Star Wars, when he took his helmet off in the trailer, people lost their minds. This is ridiculous. How can there be black people in space? I didn’t know what the backlash was gonna be, but I knew there was going to be backlash. The same thing when Larry Wilmore took over from Colbert: Oh, this is never gonna work. This is horrible.
You can read the full article on Noah here.