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Comedy Review: Trevor Noah makes Netflix debut with “Afraid of the Dark”

Grade: A-

Although Trevor Noah, the star of Comedy Central’s hit satirical news and late-night talk program “The Daily Show” has had a few comedy specials in the past, this is the first that you can stream online as a Netflix Original. His newest hour-long special “Afraid of the Dark” tackles political issues ranging from England voting to withdraw from the European Union during Brexit to Barack Obama, whom he dubs “the coolest president ever,” noting his especially unique way of exiting an Air Force One jet. Noah’s special was recorded live at the Beacon Theater in New York City earlier this year.

There are some points when Noah’s comedy does not seem to be any different than what you hear on the “Daily Show,” but for the most part he alters his brand to accommodate for the live stage instead of a studio audience — and it is absolutely brilliant. He characterizes the significance of certain political events effectively without droning on about differences of opinion. His comedy is fast-paced yet careful and analytical, like when he talks about Idris Elba as a would-be James Bond, which is not political but cements Noah’s versatility. He even makes jokes about men’s susceptibility to the uncontrollable power of female genitalia, of which may have been a creative allusion to such historical popular culture works such as Aristophanes’ “Lysistrata.”

So while many viewers might expect that Noah’s routine would be very political, if you do care to watch it, you will be surprised to know that it is remarkably apolitical. He draws on life experiences growing up in South Africa under apartheid and the remarkable privilege he had of living in a country with a black president twice (Obama and the late Nelson Mandela).

Noah also harnesses the power of using accents in his comedy. He does this so that he can play out conversations between two or three different people. This significantly adds to his comedy and sets him apart from other satirists. Some of the most common accents that he uses are British and Russian, which he regards as far less scary than the Russian language itself.

In light of recent news coverage, it is very surprising and relieving that Noah did not really invoke Donald Trump at all in his routine. It might have been a mistake since his audience might be heavily divided, but it also proved that there are a lot of other relevant areas that prove worthy of his satire.

Noah appears calm, collected and in command when he’s up on stage, which might not be too different than his usual studio presence, but is nevertheless nice to see. This is a man who had a hard childhood and did not really make a name for himself until he moved to Los Angeles from Johannesburg, South Africa in an effort to begin a new life. Many comedians today have their own struggles, but most seem incomparable to that of Noah’s. Thankfully, he does not let that prevent him from trying to bring joy to people’s lives through comedy.

You can catch more of Noah and his antics on the “Daily Show” every weekday night at 11 p.m. on Comedy Central.

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