Happily Trevor After
The Daily Show with Trevor Noah is no more. This show, this person was central to my morning routine. My daily habit from Tuesday to Friday included answering emails and listening to Trevor talk about the news. Today for a second day, I wake up wondering what to do?
Trevor's show came to my life at a time I was finding a way in the world. I had just started my PhD in management after experiencing being fired from my dream job and getting divorced. I changed fields, redraw the boundaries of my self, and shed layers away from my Disney-inspired S&P500-sponsored pursuit of excellence. I needed new logic to live my life,. Professionalism was not a God in whose altar I wanted to offer my sacrifices anymore.
Trevor came at a time when I needed to step away from the black-and-white logic of my past and learn nuance, learn how to feel my needs, and become myself. I remember clearly how I read Born a Crime, and I forced myself not to skip to the end. My own story with marital abuse did not afford me to check whether Trevor's mom was alive or not. Her death was a risk I could not face. Reading about her survival brought me so much joy. Learning about Trevor past opened my trust in him.
In case you do not know, Trevor's biography is potentially the most interesting biography there is. Trevor is the 21st-century Malcolm X. As X hustled in New York, Noah pirated CDs and hustled in myriads of ways in the streets of Soweto. This confessed criminal left his life within the boundaries of the law to become a comedian. A Daywalker, a person born a crime in a country whose laws were written in the most inhuman ink. Trevor survived, from the day he was born, barbaric experiences. He had to play at home so that the black would not realize there was a crime-born among them. He needed to walk far from his family in order for the police not to incarcerate his loved ones. I digress.
Born a Crime was not my first encounter with Trevor. Years prior, I had streamed his stand-up. I loved his joking about other developing countries—an act no WEIRD comedian is allowed to do. But an act we all do in developing countries. Jokes about Argentinians, for example, represent a central pillar of every Latin American household. I watched as Trevor entered the Daily Show's radar, with strange interactions around the hosting chair. Noah was not a correspondent but also not part of the show.
Like everyone back then, I felt worried when Jon Stewart stepped down. It was a time that looked chaotic. The USA might elect a reality star as president. What could the world do without having a white uncle explain the news? I guess the answer was rejoice on the last genius act of Jon Stewart, the handpicking of Trevor.
Trevor was great. He did things the other WEIRD talking heads could not afford. He took stances. He said words they could not. He had the skin in the game, and he made the personal political. He was the one voice that could talk with the leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement as it started. He could learn as many of us to empathize with the atrocities women experience at work. He could converse with Greta Thunberg or the Sandy Hook survivors without condescending or asking if they were puppets of some older billionaires. Trevor has a heart filled with nuance and he knew how to use it.
Trevor's last prayer left us with two wise words that, as a choir member, I loved. The first asked us to consider the context of an action. To think about why something happened and not just evaluate behavior. It might sound funny, but this is state-of-the-art advice even in behavioral science, my research turf. As a field, we are stupidly idiotic at observing behavior in lieu of context and reasoning.
Listen to black women and women of color. Wise advice that, well, as a momma's boy, isn't hard to follow. As in the case of Trevor I grew up surrounded by wise women of color. Even today, most of the stretch marks in my heart come from reading bell hooks, Toni Morrison, or Octavia Butler. Few writers are braver than women of color, be they cis- or trans-gendered.
As Daren Franchise wrote, Trevor Noah "is, quite simply, the most interesting man in the world: Everyone in American show business scratches their heads about his departure. Why leave a good job without having another one lined up? That is clearly false, but still broke many people's minds. For WEIRD people, professionalism is a single-minded, one-dimensional endeavor. WEIRD culture lives and dies through the parable of the sower: One shall always have one goal, and one should sew the riches one plants. Leaving a field as it flowers makes no sense, but that is what makes Trevor special.
Trevor has transcended any mold he could set for his life. He has had no real path for decades. Who knows what will come next for the best-selling author, comedian, filmmaker, and night show host? I know I will be watching. I know I wish him the best, and I am deeply grateful for all he helped me learn. A big part of who I am comes from his deep, subtle, and nuanced empathy. Godspeed, Trevor, and thanks for your time.