Born a Crime

by Trevor Noah

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Student Question

In Born a Crime, how does humor influence Trevor's upbringing and career choices?

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Humor was a very important part of Trevor's upbringing. Born to a white father and black mother in apartheid-era South Africa, he learned from an early age that humor was a coping mechanism to deal with chronic injustice and racial prejudice.

Trevor's mother was jailed on and off for having a relationship with Trevor's father, who, as we've already seen, was a white man. This was strictly forbidden at the time, and so Trevor's mother often found herself in hot water with the authorities. And yet, instead of getting angry about it, she tried to minimize her experiences through humor, highlighting the total absurdity of a system that denies the very possibility of love between people of different races.

Even when Trevor's former stepfather shot his mother, Trevor actually joked about it with his mother while she was in hospital. As she lay in bed, recovering from her injuries, she turned to Trevor and said "Don't cry. Look on the bright side: Now you're officially the best-looking person in the family."

Inevitably, Trevor's upbringing had a major impact on his career choices. As comedy was something that kept his family going through such hard times, Trevor realized that there was something special about it, something to which he could devote himself in a professional context. Having grown up in an environment where humor was ever present, Trevor was a humorist long before he became a professional comedian, which was the next logical step in his extraordinary life journey.

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