Trevor Noah brings politically charged comedy to JFL NorthWest

Trevor Noah packs the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Vancouver during comedy festival


The Daily Show host Trevor Noah drew back-to-back sold out shows at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre Thursday night (February 23rd), giving the JFL NorthWest comedy festival one of its most hyped up evenings. Fans were lined up around the block until the show was literally supposed to begin, and security tried to rally them in as quickly as possible from multiple entrances to the theatre. The set—as to be expected—began late and without an opener. But Noah was in great spirits and kicked it off with a rant against a certain group of people…toddlers.

Calling out toddlers for basically being “little terrorists”, Noah got laughs as he reflected on his own young days growing up in Africa and the difference between youngsters on our two respective continents. It was refreshing to hear the comedy heavy hitter taking on anything besides Donald Trump, although as he mused about toddlers he threw in the segue, “[toddlers] grow up to be presidents of the United States.” And there you go, we were in it.

Noah has been particularly vocal about Trump on The Daily Show, joining the likes of Seth Meyers, John Oliver, and Stephen Colbert in an almost obsessive multi-month rant. But how could he not? The political climate in the States right now makes it nearly impossible for any comedian with a large-scale platform not to take hits at the elderly orange president. What was funny, however, was Noah’s insistence that Canadians are rubbing it in Americans’ faces that we have a much better government setup, healthcare and—as Noah puts it—a particularly sexy leader with strong arms. With a “toddler in the White House”, Noah threw in jokes on immigrants, Justin Trudeau’s stellar handshake move, and racism.

In truth, most of Thursday night was about racism, and audiences no doubt got more than their quota of the ‘N word’. This, however, was intriguing in that it was almost a lesson on the origin of words, how meaning comes about and what age has to do with racism. Using Trump as a basic catalyst for nearly all his topics throughout the JFL NorthWest performances, Noah packed a particularly politically charged set but never lost that almost innocent African charm he has become so well known for. His observations on how racism is different, wherever he goes, gives comedy fans a lot to ponder, and Canadians no doubt left the event that night feeling glad more than ever that they were not living in the States. While these are scary times, the political happenings are giving performers like Noah endless material to launch a thoughtful dialogue on issues that we need to think more deeply about. In essence, Noah’s stance as an African comedian working in multiple countries puts him in the interesting place of being able to speak about the realities of cultural difference.