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New 'Daily Show' Host Trevor Noah Tries Out Jokes About Racism, Ebola

The Trevor Noah countdown has begun. The South African stand-up comedian will begin hosting Comedy Central's Daily Show on Sept. 28. And what better way to get ready than ... by doing comedy.

Noah was in D.C. this weekend as part of a summer comedy tour. Our NPR colleagues Frederica Boswell and Gwynne Villota went to the sold-out show. He got a standing ovation when he came out. Then came the act. Boswell, who has seen Noah perform before, notes that the mixed-race South African (father white, mother black) used to speak of "they" when referring to African-Americans. And now it's "we." One sample of his new perspective about living as a black man in the U.S.: "I just don't want to die and I don't know how not to die."

"He was definitely out to prove the doubters wrong that he can comment on American issues," she adds. "And from the crowd's reaction, I think he did."

Here's a roundup of jokes and observations courtesy of Boswell and Villota:

On Racism:

A police car comes up behind Noah while he's driving with a white friend and flashes its lights. The white friend says, "Did you do anything wrong?" Noah's reply: "That's not the point."

He did a long piece on all the black people who've been killed in the past few years, trying to figure out what it all means. He doesn't want to wear a hoodie, like Trayvon Martin. He has learned not to run toward the police [as Michael Brown reportedly did in Ferguson, Mo.]. But then he says that Walter Scott ran away from the police and still got shot. "Some said he was a bad guy because he owed $16,000 in child support. I can understand the ex-wife wanting to shoot him but not the police."

He talked about how he comes "from the home of racism" and how it's surprising to see how "cheap and mass produced racism is in the U.S. Like it's made in China. America showed him new kinds of racism — even the "charming racism" of Lexington, Ky.: "Afternoon, n******."

On Culture Shock:

He is uncomfortable driving in America, not because he has to drive on the wrong side of the road, but because he has to sit on the wrong side of the car. "I come out of the grocery store and get in to the right side of the car, then realize I'm on the wrong side, but I just sit there afraid to make a fool of myself and pretend to wait for my driver."

On Ebola:

On every plane coming from Africa, every passenger had to get their temperature taken, Noah said. But they skipped him: "Like I'm not African enough. I don't want Ebola, but I want people to think I could get Ebola!"

On a recent flight, "I coughed once, the plane shook. Ebola, Ebola! Calm down dude, it's just AIDS. "

When Ebola was at its peak last year, the airlines didn't pay as much attention to Middle Easterners. Instead, it was Africans. His punchline: "There was a time when Muslims were the black people of the sky!"

On Terrorism:

He pinpointed the time when we stopped worrying about Ebola and went back to worrying about Middle Easterners: after the Charlie Hebdo massacre.

When a white person commits a horrible atrocity, the media says "a lone gunman" and talks about mental instability. And doesn't use the word terrorist.

On Air Travel:

"TSA" stands for "takes smiles away." Put your smiles in the bin!

Editor's note: Well that one's corny ... but true. Readers, let us know what you think of Noah's jokes.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Marc Silver
Marc Silver, who edits NPR's global health blog, has been a reporter and editor for the Baltimore Jewish Times, U.S. News & World Report and National Geographic. He is the author of Breast Cancer Husband: How to Help Your Wife (and Yourself) During Diagnosis, Treatment and Beyond and co-author, with his daughter, Maya Silver, of My Parent Has Cancer and It Really Sucks: Real-Life Advice From Real-Life Teens. The NPR story he co-wrote with Rebecca Davis and Viola Kosome -- 'No Sex For Fish' — won a Sigma Delta Chi award for online reporting from the Society of Professional Journalists.