Trevor Noah Sony Centre, Toronto ON, September 26

Trevor Noah Sony Centre, Toronto ON, September 26
Photo: Peter Yang
Trevor Noah landed at JFL42 in a headlining spot that he earned not with his stand-up career, but on the basis of a job he hasn't even started yet — replacing Jon Stewart as the host of The Daily Show immediately following this weekend's performance. And given the insanely rabid response that greeted him, comedy fans are already on board.
While the crowd response probably outweighed reasonable expectation, Noah ably demonstrated why he's in this position. The South African comic dove straight into political humour, and talk of racial politics, terrorism and global income disparity dominated his hour-plus set. He brought a unique perspective to North American audiences, particularly given how much he was travelling back-and-forth from Africa during the ebola crisis — in which anyone flying from the entire continent was deemed as "high risk" when, as he pointed out, the U.S. had four cases of ebola while his home country had none. Just by the odds, in travelling to the U.S., he's the one putting himself at greater risk.
He tied that experience into those faced by Muslim communities, as well as the strange relationship that America has with the rest of the world, and spent some time on the various forms of racism he's come to know. Blatant racism used to be his favourite, but in the Southern U.S. he's discovered charming racism — where Southern gentility meets deep-rooted prejudice.
His hour of comedy was solid, but his presentation hasn't yet evolved with his circumstances — it's only the last 12 months that he's found himself facing 3000 people instead of 300, and his act hasn't yet caught up to that reality. Some bits dependent on facial expressions and reactions were lost on people 30 rows back, much less in those in the balcony, and his speaking voice and presentation remain on the low-key side. In time he'll certainly learn to match his energy level with his environment, and judging from the voracious standing ovation he received, fans are more than willing to wait.