By Katharine Webster
Did you hear the joke about Lowell?
You can expect to hear several when comedian Trevor Noah, host of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show,” comes to campus next month.
“I always try to write a piece of the show specifically for the place that I’m in,” Noah said in a telephone interview before his Oct. 5 show at the Tsongas Center. “I like each show to feel unique, so whenever I get to a state or a country, I try to hunker down and learn as much as I can and get whatever material I can.”
Maybe Noah will joke about all the blank ballots in the 3rd Congressional District race, the ensuing recount and the state investigation. Maybe he’ll talk about the gas explosions and fires in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover – although it may be too soon.
“I love that phrase, ‘Comedy is tragedy plus time,’ so I try to think about how long it’s been and how human beings can process that information,” he said.
Expanding on that theme, Noah talked about how he approaches news that upsets him – and manages to transform that into the incisive political humor people expect from “The Daily Show.”
“I don’t focus on turning it into humor. I use humor as my tool to process what frustration or anger or pain that I may be feeling about what’s happening to other people,” he said. “And so I think to myself, ‘What is the truth that I’d like to say?’ and I find, generally speaking, that comedy then comes to me from that place, because comedy is a filter through which I process all of my information.”
His show at the Tsongas Center may be less news-focused and political than “The Daily Show,” because when Noah does standup, he wants everyone in the audience to laugh.
“What I really enjoy is being in a space where we’re all laughing, regardless of what our original story is. I try to make a room, no matter how big it is, feel like a small room of friends,” he said.
“I use humor as my tool to process what frustration or anger or pain that I may be feeling about what’s happening to other people.”
-“The Daily Show” host Trevor Noah
Noah had some advice for college students on preparing for the “real” world of adulthood: Take advantage of the organic diversity that exists in any university community.
“Our social circles are so small,” he said. “Learn to use the university environment to engage with people you’d never ordinarily meet in daily life. Get to know as many different people from as many different walks of life as you can.”
If a college student aspires to host “The Daily Show” one day, what should they study?
“Study human beings, study the world around you, learn from people, read as much as you can – and most importantly, study comedy. Try and see the world through the lens of comedy,” Noah said. “If you can find a way to make people laugh while thinking about what’s happening in and around them, great! Then do that, and you never know where you’ll end up.”
People everywhere are struggling to have conversations about difficult issues, and humor is a way to start those conversations, he said.
“Let’s have conversations about what it’s like to be a white person living in a world that’s diversifying and becoming more culturally aware, and what it’s like to be a person of color in that world. What is it like being in a relationship in general? What’s it like being a woman or a man living through the #MeToo movement?”
Noah said he’s excited to come to Lowell and learn more about the city. Students are excited to have him here, too.
Tyler McMillan, a recent music education grad now in the Master of Public Administration program, already has his ticket. He says Noah is a major source of news for people his age – who rarely watch traditional TV news broadcasts, but are happy to watch a four-minute clip from “The Daily Show” on their smartphones between classes.
“I really enjoy Trevor Noah because of his ability to blend serious topics and a lighthearted view on certain issues,” McMillan said. “He’s really effective at conveying important things underlying society, but at the same time allowing people who don’t pay a lot of attention to the news to enjoy his content.”
UML students can buy discounted tickets for the show at the Student Activities office in University Crossing. Tickets for the general public are available at the Tsongas Center box office or online at http://www.tsongascenter.com/