What you don’t know about Trevor Noah

In a sea of rival cable news shows, one stands out as a breath of fresh air, particularly in the final days before the presidential election. The Daily Show with Trevor Noah on Comedy Central carries on the talk show’s long tradition of news mixed with a generous dose of humor, but with Trevor Noah at the helm, it feels fresher than ever. The South Africa-born comedian started as a contributor on the show in 2014 when Jon Stewart was the host, and then took over for him the following year (via Comedy Central).  

The show has taken on special relevance this year. When other shows halted production because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Noah set up a spot in his Manhattan apartment, turned on his iPhone, and filmed the show himself. Just three days later, Noah got Dr. Anthony Fauci to sit for a Zoom interview that took up the entire show and became a viral YouTube sensation (via Variety). Now dubbed The Daily Social Distancing Show, it garnered three Emmy nominations this year and made Noah (and his large collection of hoodies, as featured by Men’s Health) even more of a late-night fixture. Variety reports that he’ll be covering the election results live on Tuesday night.

Fans of the show know about Noah’s childhood in South Africa as the son of a Xhosa mother and a white Swiss father; his memoir Born a Crime shot to #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. But there are some things about the charismatic host that might come as a surprise.

Trevor Noah was once thrown out of a moving bus

As Noah explains in his memoir, as a boy growing up in post-apartheid South Africa, he faced dangers stemming from political unrest, conflicts between tribes, and his status as a biracial child. He recalls riding to church with his family in a private minibus shuttle and witnessing the driver making violent threats to his mother (via CBS). She waited until the bus slowed down, then opened the door and threw Trevor out before making the leap herself with his baby brother. Safe at home, mother and son argued over whether this incident was God’s will, with Noah insisting that they should have stayed at home. “Finally I said, ‘Look, Mom. I know you love Jesus, but maybe next week you could ask him to meet us at our house.'”

Mining his childhood and homeland for laughs, Noah began doing local stand-up in his twenties and appeared briefly in a South African soap before eventually trying his hand at comedy in the U.S. In 2012, he made his talk show debut on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and the following year was a guest on The Late Show with David Letterman (per Biography and Culture Trip)Now he uses his own show as a vehicle to denounce racism in America and encourage voter turnout. 

He's game for almost any challenge

Noah is a good sport about participating in media-worthy events. He’s visited the Pixar Pier section of Disneyland and posed with Mr. Incredible and Frozone (via Mickey Blog). He came in second with his partner as a contestant on the South African version of Dancing with the Stars (via Today), and rode motorcycles with Dave Chappelle as part of an outdoor show in Ohio this past summer (via Dayton.com).

But one challenge may have been just a little too extreme for him: He appeared on the show Hot Ones, a comedy talk show in which celebs chat with the host while eating wings with sauce that gets progressively hotter as the interview goes on. Even though Noah has eaten such African delicacies as boiled goat’s head (including the eyes, which he describes as “a ball of pus that pops”), the final bites found him tearing up, coughing, and hiccuping (you can see it here). 

He may be off the market

For all Noah’s honesty about his youth — including his brief stints in jail for minor offenses, his loving relationship with his mother, and his clashes with his abusive stepfather — he tends to keep his current personal life under wraps. But People recently revealed that the late-night star has been seeing actress Minka Kelly. An anonymous source told the magazine, “They’re very happy. It’s a very serious relationship.” Reportedly, Kelly has moved into his Manhattan apartment.

The 36-year-old comedian has only had a small handful of relationships in his life. He first dated physiotherapist Dani Gabriel in South Africa before moving to the States, and after that, he was linked to singer Jordyn Taylor for four years (via Life & Style). Noah’s modest dating history can be in part credited to his past teen insecurities; as he told PEOPLE Now, “If anyone has has suffered from acne vulgaris the way I did, you’ll know that that sticks with you. So I work hard on my self-esteem.”

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