This week on 60 Minutes, correspondent Lesley Stahl profiles Trevor Noah, a stand-up comedian and host of “The Daily Show” on Comedy Central.
On television, the biracial South African brings an international dimension to late-night comedy. Off screen, the 60 Minutes team found, Noah is quick to find humor in daily life and frequently riffs on jokes he makes up on the spot.
“Funny is something that I developed as a tool to belong,” Noah explained to Stahl.
60 Minutes’ cameras watched Noah hone his humor during a rewriting session before a taping of “The Daily Show,” a ViacomCBS property. Noah was reviewing the script with show writers and executive producer, Jen Flanz, when he arrived at a joke about doctors successfully transplanting a pig kidney into a human patient. Midway through reading the script, he had a thought: What if the transplant recipient takes on characteristics of the donor?
Writer and supervising producer Zhubin Parang picked up where Noah was going. If Noah received a swine kidney, Parang suggested, he could become particularly adept at sniffing out truffles. After this received a round of laughter in the room, Noah asked for the “truffle riff” to be added to the script and improvised the joke when the show taped.
But he had to imagine how the joke would play. Because of the pandemic, “The Daily Show” currently does not have a live audience — quite a difference from when Noah performs stand-up in front of crowds that can reach as many as 15,000 people.
Stahl and her crew went backstage with Noah ahead of one of these performances and watched as he went through his pre-show ritual — playing video games. Noah said it is his way of assuring he is the most authentic version of himself when he takes the stage.
The evening 60 Minutes was there, Noah was playing video game soccer. He asked Stahl which sports she likes to watch, and she told him she enjoyed the Olympics, particularly the swimming events. Her response set Noah into uproarious laughter.
As Stahl later watched Noah’s stand-up set, she understood why.
“White people love swimming so much that they found a way to make swimmers get more medals than anybody else at the Olympics,” he observed to a sold-out audience in Washington, DC. “It’s a trick. It’s a trick. Because think about it. Swimming is the only discipline at the Olympics where you can win multiple medals for doing the same thing in a slightly different way.”
This time, Noah heard the roar as a crowd of thousands responded with laughter.
That immediate feedback is why Noah told Stahl that stand-up will always be his passion.
“I don’t know where anything else will go in life. I know that I will always be doing stand-up for as long as I am able to do stand-up comedy,” Noah said during the interview. “It may be to a hundred people, it may be to a thousand people, it may be to 20,000 people. I will always be doing stand-up comedy for as long as I can.”
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