Since 2015, Trevor Noah has been serving laughs and social commentary as the host of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show. But what the casual viewer may not know is that Noah’s upbringing was far from funny. As a biracial child raised during Apartheid in South Africa, he overcame incredible challenges to get where he is today.
Trevor Noah’s mom, Patricia Noah, can take some credit for his success. The comedian often talks about her in interviews, praising her strength and resilience. Find out more about Patricia’s extraordinary life story and how her worldview influenced her son.
Trevor Noah Is The Host Of ‘The Daily Show’
Trevor Noah was born on February 20, 1984, in Johannesburg, South Africa. He began his show biz career at 18 with a small role in a South African soap opera. He was a versatile figure, hosting various TV programs that covered education, gossip, and sports. He even cut a rug as a contestant on Strictly Come Dancing, a reality dance competition.
But Trevor was determined to make it in comedy. He relocated to the United States in 2011 and was the first South African to perform on both The Tonight Show and Late Show with David Letterman.
In 2014, he joined The Daily Show as a contributor; by the next year, he was selected to replace Jon Stewart as the host. Trevor has since been a reliable source of laughs during a tumultuous period in politics.
As he became a familiar face on the small screen, viewers were curious to learn more about his personal life. He provided an in-depth account of his early life in his 2016 autobiography Born a Crime.
Trevor was born to a black mother and white father at a time when mixed-race relationships were illegal in South Africa. He was raised in poverty and survived an abusive environment once his mom had moved on to another relationship. Outside of his turbulent home life, he also grew up a witness to violence and political turmoil in his home country.
Despite the hardships, his mother remained steadfast in raising a man who embraced forgiveness and saw the humor in life.
Patricia Noah Has Endured Many Hardships
Trevor believed his book was an opportunity to present himself as a hero. But during the writing process, he discovered who the real protagonist was.
“I thought that I was the hero of my story, [but] in writing it I came to realize over time that my mom was the hero,” Trevor told NPR in 2016. “I was lucky enough to be in the shadow of a giant.”
Patricia Noah grew up impoverished in South Africa during Apartheid—a system of segregation that lasted 50 years. By giving birth to Trevor, whose father was white, she risked imprisonment. The looming threat forced her to raise Trevor in partial secrecy.
“My grandmother kept me locked in the house when I was staying with the family in Soweto,” said Trevor. He explained that Patricia often had to pretend they weren’t related when in public, lest she be exposed by a snitch.
“My mom was caught in a white neighborhood past curfew without the right permits,” he later added. “My mom was caught in transition, and that was key, because had she been caught in the act then, as the law says, she could’ve spent anywhere up to four years in prison… So on and off my mom would spend a week in jail—she would spend a day in jail here, a week again, a week and a half, two weeks. … My gran would tell me, ‘She’ll be back.'”
Patricia’s misfortunes did not end post-Apartheid. In 2009, Noah received a call that her mother had been shot by his step-father—a man with a history of drinking and violent behavior. The bullet entered the back of her head and came out through her nose, dodging her brain and arteries. It was a stunning story of survival.
“When someone gets shot in the head and suffers no brain damage and is alive and needs to go through no surgery and a bullet completely passes through the head, then you almost have to concede,” he said. “Who was I to say ‘I don’t believe in miracles’ when I’ve seen this happen in my life?”
Patricia Taught Trevor To Cope With Injustice By Using Humor
Trevor confessed to feeling rage as he sat by his mother’s hospital bedside. However, Patricia encouraged her son to look at the situation from a different perspective.
“[She] said to me, ‘Don’t hate him for doing this,'” Trevor explained on The Jess Cagle Interview in 2017. “‘But rather pity him because he too is a victim, in his own way, of a world that has thrust upon him an idea of masculinity that he has subscribed to and is now a part of. As for myself, I do not wish to imbue myself with a hatred that only I will carry.'”
Patricia not only relied on forgiveness but humor to get through her hardships.
“My mom was the first true comedian I ever saw,” Trevor told Parade in 2016. “She’s like a clown when you talk to her. She’s very animated. She pulls faces. She changes her voice. Physically, she could do funny things. She’s comfortable with mime. She thinks like a standup without realizing it… These were just natural talents that she possessed and she passed them down to me.”
He also told NPR that his mom was the first in the family to crack a joke after being shot. “Don’t cry,” said Patricia. “Look on the bright side: Now you’re officially the best-looking person in the family.”
“We’ve overcome a lot because of laughter, said Trevor. “I think that’s why I love comedy so much, it’s because it’s the thing that has kept my family going through every single type of adversity.”
For all that the Noahs have been through, Trevor’s fame isn’t exactly a priority for his mom. “She doesn’t not love that I’m a celebrity, but my mom doesn’t care,” he told Jimmy Kimmel. “I always tell people the only celebrity my mom cares about is Jesus. If I could show my mom a selfie with Jesus, then she’d be like ‘Wow.'”
Get some more insight into their relationship by watching the entire interview:
It sounds like Trevor and Patricia have forged an unbreakable bond over challenging circumstances. And he hopes it’s a good example that other mothers and sons can aspire to. As the comedian told Parade, he hopes the one thing readers should take away from his life story is this: Call your mom.