Trevor Noah’s “Afraid of the Dark” gives optimistic light
“The Daily Show” comedian, Trevor Noah, offers his perspectives as a proud world traveler in his new Netflix comedy special, “Afraid of the Dark.” Noah departs from his pinpointed views of U.S. politics and other issues to focus on more globalized themes in an easy-to-swallow manner.
Originally filmed the weekend before the election, Noah’s first monologue comments on his fascination with traffic lights, and how they were what made him realize how different his new home is from his country of origin, South Africa.
“What fascinates me about New York is how much people trust the traffic lights,” he says. “I come from an African country and all over Africa we have traffic lights but we don’t use them. It’s less of a command and more of a suggestion.”
Noah’s description of the differences between the two countries descends into something deeper, as he begins to discuss immigration and colonization.
In this special, Noah is able to discuss serious political issues yet still make it enjoyable while weaving in light hearted humor. One moment, he is displaying his vast talent for accents to demonstrate the clumsy colonization of India by the British, and in the next, he concludes the bit with a sombering yet touching thought.
“I love the accents, not just because they sound fun and it’s an interesting thing to do,” he says. “I love accents because I’m always impressed by how much power they have over us. Over our minds. When someone speaks a certain way, it changes how we feel about that person. For good and for bad.”
This technique Noah uses is precisely what he has been criticized for in the past on his main platform on Comedy Central.
Noah, with his sunny disposition, has been underwhelming due to his consistently lukewarm efforts to fill the huge shoes of his biting and supremely witty predecessor, Jon Stewart, according to an article in The Atlantic.
In this monologue, however, there is not as much of a need for a sharp, satirical tone, so the tactic works. The crowd received Noah’s light-hearted yet meaningful comedy with constant laughter.
Noah’s bits do get long-winded at times. While Noah does show off his impressive accent skills, his characters’ exchanges often chew the scenery for a hair too longer than they should. During one particular exchange he describes his visit to Scotland and how the drinking habits there are vastly different from those of Americans.
“Nothing sounds dangerous when they say ‘a wee, little drink,’” he says in a Scottish brogue.
Noah reaches the apex of the special when describing the fictionalized public speaking lessons between Nelson Mandela and Barack Obama. The impressions are spot on, adding realism to the whole encounter.
The special overall is given an interesting layer of depth with its discussion of immigration pre-election, and its release after the Trump travel ban was recently knocked down in courts. Instead of directly criticizing the U.S., Noah instead opts to put Great Britain in the hot seat.
“Why do you hate them so much?” Noah asks a hypothetical person, referring to immigrants.
He replies in a whiny, Cockney accent that the hate stems from the fact that with their new food, language, style of dress, immigrants are not even acting British.
“Sounds British to me,” he says to the audience with a deft shrug.
The focus on Britain provides a relaxed yet poignant focus on issues that are still relevant to the U.S., but the secondary focus is refreshing and just as powerful.
While Noah claims that he is afraid of the dark, a metaphor for his view of the current political landscape, his gentle humor offers some hopeful light.