• Saturday, December 02, 2023

Entertainment

Delhi traffic, poor timekeeping and Trump: Trevor Noah hits right note at debut India show

By: Mohnish Singh

He came, he saw, he joked. Smiles and laughter filled the jam-packed auditorium of JLN stadium as celebrated stand-up artist Trevor Noah kickstarted the Indian leg of his ‘Off The Record’ tour in New Delhi.

Performing his debut gig in India, Noah, who grew up in South Africa watching Bollywood movies and admitted to being “immersed in Indian culture”, ran out of neither topics nor laughs in an almost two-hour-long show where he covered everything from Indians’ idiosyncrasies to world politics and current events to environmental science.

Though he landed in India just days ago, the funny man showcased his astute observational humour when he opened the show making the typical behaviour of Delhiites as the butt of his jokes.

Be it the poor timekeeping where “five minutes never mean five minutes”, the indecipherable head nods and hand gestures — which could mean anything like come, go, stay, ok and more — or the scariest of all, one which the comedian just couldn’t speak enough of, rash driving of Delhiites, Noah shared all his observations with the audience.

“I am not saying that driving in Delhi is like a death wish, but every time I get into a car in Delhi I hope I get where I am going. I have never been this close to people who were not in my car,” Noah said and the audience burst into laughter, well aware that the joke was on them.

The former “The Daily Show” host, known for his insightful take on politics and current events worldwide, didn’t take long to talk about his favourite subject: US politics and politicians.

He impersonated several former US presidents, including John F. Kennedy, George W. Bush, Barack Obama and one of his pet peeves Donald Trump, calling them out for having “weird voices”.

“Standing for an election in the US? You better have a weird voice,” said Noah.

The multiple requests from the audience to discuss Indian politicians, especially Prime Minister Narendra Modi was put down by the comedian, who said he doesn’t know enough about Modi to talk about him.

Trevor Noah (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)

When someone in the audience asked if he finds any similarities between Trump and Modi, the 39-year-old comedian didn’t bat an eyelid and replied, “There is literally no one like Trump on this planet. He is one of its own kind”.

That said, he did take suggestions from the audience about any Indian politician they would like him to look up on the internet and know more about. The winner of an impromptu audience poll: Bihar’s former chief minister Lalu Prasad Yadav.

The comedian also gave his two cents about news articles insinuating India changing its name to ‘Bharat’ and said he is afraid that’s going to be hard for the rest of the world with regards to pronouncing the word correctly.

“The tourists would surely struggle for a bit. Take an example of a lady going to your country for a yoga retreat. Now, if someone asks her about the country she is going to, she would be like ‘I am going to bha, bha, bha’. Forget it, ‘I am going to Bali’,” he said to the audience rolling in the aisles. Some dark, rather deadly humour, was also on the offering for the audience as Noah called out the five passengers onboard the ill-fated deep-sea submersible enroute to the century-old wreck of the Titanic for dying in one of the “stupidest ways”.

He referred to an old saying in Africa, “Do not chase death and then be shocked about it”.

“You have that Titanic wreck at that place for a reason. If you want to watch Titanic, go watch the movie, it is any day a better choice. There is no Leonardo Di Caprio waiting for you down there. When I die, I want people to mourn my death and not judge my death,” he said, being both serious and funny in equal proportion.

Be it telling a five-year-old child sitting in the first row to close his ears before every adult joke or funnily extracting information about the love marriage of a couple in the audience married for about 20 years, Noah’s fair share of crowd work throughout its act was loved by one and all.

Crowd work, also known as audience work or working the room, is when a comedian engages with the audience during their performance.

Besides the prepared act, it was Noah’s quick thinking and strong repartee that stole the show for many.

“I was told that Mumbai is about Bollywood and finance, and Delhi is about politics and power. But sometimes, I guess, the power goes out, ” said Noah, as if on cue, soon after a brief instance where some lights on the stage went off.

The ‘Off The Record’ Indian tour, produced and promoted by BookMyShow ‘Live’, will be held in the national capital on Saturday and Sunday as well before travelling to Bengaluru on September 27-28 and finally to Mumbai on September 30 and October 1.

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