It feels as though it’s impossible to break away from Donald Trump, but in his new Netflix special (Afraid Of The Dark), Trevor Noah manages to find a way. That may surprise you since Noah is the host of The Daily Show With Trevor Noah, a program shaped heavily by the chaos that emanates from the new president’s White House, mouth, and Twitter account. But Noah wanted to take a larger view and he wanted to speak to the world, so he delivered a special that aims to be timeless.
We spoke about with Noah about that goal, how The Daily Show handles an era where hypocrisy is accepted with a shrug, why Milo Yiannopoulos wouldn’t be welcome on his show, why Donald Trump would, and why facts are always our friend.
When was the special filmed and what was the difference between filming this one and the Lost In Translation special?
We recorded the special in November. I think it was a few days before the election. And I guess the biggest difference in terms of recording it was, like now I was making the special for the world, like I set out to make one specifically to be filmed in New York City but then, to be seen as a world show. If that makes sense.
So, what I was doing was, I wanted something that I had worked on, something that I had toured, and then something that would pop regardless of where you’re watching in the world. Because that’s the great thing about Netflix — you premiere worldwide simultaneously.
The special seems to focus on stories that try to convey a sense of history and a sense of scope. I definitely see that worldwide kind of angle. I think it’s possible that you could say, that in American culture, we’re lacking that sense of history and that sense of scope. Is that something you would agree with? And, if so, why do you think that is?
I think there are many times, you know, America’s been a country where you haven’t really been affected by the outside world. You’ve been a determining factor of the world. And with the growth of globalization, with the growth of social media, with the internet — the world of information has become a smaller place. So now, we are watching… you know, like there is a meme about a guy who puts salt on meat in Turkey and it’s become a big thing. So now, all of a sudden, people are like “who is Salt Bae?” That would have never happened ten years ago.
Just the idea that we could be reading news stories about Syria from Syrians is something that is completely different from what we had a long time ago. So I think, with America being as big as it is, and with how much news America can generate for itself, it’s understandable that a lot of Americans have never really delved deep into the world of what’s happening outside of their borders. But now, more and more, it has become something that is part of the American story, because you can’t escape it, it’s happening to America as well as the rest of the world.
There’s a surprising lack of Donald Trump mentions in the special. Was there a conscious decision to make this feel more timeless by keeping the election out of it or were you looking for a change from what you do at your day job?
Well, I think it’s a combination of the two. On one hand, I try and make it timeless. On the other hand… You know, Trump and politics and the election is something I get to do all the time. So, with my stand-up… I like to look at every single outlet as a different opportunity. When I wrote my book, I went, “If somebody doesn’t know me, or if somebody does know me: what do they get from this book? What am I trying to give them with this book?” And that goes for my stand-up.
Because I’m at different places in my career, doing different forms of art, I’ve used those platforms very differently. So for the special… Donald Trump is not the highlight of my special because my special is not topical.
The only joke I put in about Donald Trump was in there because he will leave an indelible mark on American history for decades to come. You can’t ignore it completely, but the last thing I would do is create a Donald Trump special. And to be honest with you, when it come to stand-up, you work on this stuff for so long that it’s like Donald Trump would make it too easy. I want to go for the harder stuff, which is making material from scratch. Figuring out how to do it.