« Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations

Trevor Noah: Born a Crime

2018-03-19 | 🔗

In his interview with Oprah at the famed Apollo Theater in New York City, Trevor Noah, the late-night comedy host and best-selling author of "Born a Crime," discusses his childhood in South Africa, his mother who risked her life to raise him, and his unlikely path to becoming the host of "The Daily Show." Trevor shares inspiring stories about overcoming extreme poverty under apartheid. Oprah tells Trevor, "You're the only person I've interviewed, that I can remember, who's a famous person, who grew up poorer than I did." Trevor says, "We laughed. We enjoyed ourselves. We had something that sometimes you don't have when you have too much, and that's the ability to focus on the human beings around you." Trevor also explains the "black tax" that he writes about in his book. He tells Oprah, "It's one of the hardest conversations to have with people." In this special edition of "Oprah's SuperSoul Conversations," you'll hear Oprah and Trevor's full interview, featuring more than 15 minutes of bonus content not included in Part 1 of the OWN special "Oprah at the Apollo."

This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
I'm over Winfrey welcome to supersede conversations the podcast. I believe that one the most valuable gives you can give yourself is time taking time to be more fully present, your journey to become more inspired and connected to the deeper world around us starts right now
While I am I going as images tell you I I have to say I love this work. I love this, but I thank you and really I have to tell you. I am so impressed that you were able to bring the story to the world in a way that has such humor and such depth such sincerity and such truth really you think you have to try again: you're gonna, you're, gonna love it I've never heard of a comedian actually who grew up in apartheid, South Africa under such extreme conditions and then being able to turn things around into comedy. Why think? That's that's really. What I found comedy is for me. You know my whole life comedy
always been a tool that I have used to process pain. It's how my family communicated its one thing. We have, we always laughed and you ve been so waits for you see How yet we live there. You know. The weird thing is, when I would say to people when your poor I've been poor, sucks but being put together, makes it a lot better right, because you in its together and you dont you don't it doesn't discount the fact that you don't have, but then you see to enjoy the things that you do haven't, that is each other, and so we laughed we enjoyed ourselves. We had something that sometimes you dont have when you have too much, and that is the ability to focus on the human beings around you fifteen. I thought this is the best example definition of apartheid. I'd heard you say it was a police state, a system of surveillance and laws designed to keep black people under total control of full compendium of those laws would run more than three thousand pages and way approximately
in pounds, but the general thrust of it, should be easy enough for any American to understand. In America you had the forced removal of the native onto reservations, coupled with slavery, followed by segregation. Now imagine all three of those things happening to the same group of people at the same time, that was apartheid that was above a beautiful explanation that less and less really what it was. It was perfect and study racism which is its disappointing. Sometimes, when you realize how far some people will go, what lens people who go to to oppress other people, always things myself with all that talent. You know I think of my high school tissue, be like if you just applied yours, young man, you can just so many good things for the world yeah. I think of how many amazing things they could have done with South Africa with that Saint, because apartheid was an evil genius plan, It's amazing in its insidious nature and that's really what it was all about and show
you were literally born a cry right. Rights born a crime, for it was illegal for european to color. I voted to be serious, trouble, conall intercourse or interaction with any person over. No, that was a law. Yes and it was a law. If you were black person, you could not be right. Yeah, like everyone separated and so black and white, and even smaller groups within ratios in America, oftentimes just black and white. When the discussion is had, but in South Africa they were meticulous, so its black and white within black black was divided into all different tribes and those tribes are separated from one another and then even with in different races like asian people, separate Japanese, different class to Chinese and an indian different class to other types of asian and- and this was a system designed to make sure that every group was small and oppressed in a different way. That's right in Spain.
Different languages, so nobody could communicate yes and you when you were a little boy, they had to hide you, which is something I didn't know by the way. That was that's like one of the most fascinating things. That's where we're credit, my mother, my grandmother, my family, because we take for granted win because adults, the ability we have to shape the view of the world, our children. They were here to save you from yourself, because you could have been taken away. And I didn't. I didn't know that he I wasn't imagines. I'm a little kid growing up. They just tell me sometimes to go and hide under the bed. In my let go of the coolest parents in the world. Sometimes I go hide and then I come out then only when I'm writing a book. Does my grandmother tell me? Oh yes, we You do under the bed travel. We hid you because the police would come in they found you than they would take you away. So we had to hygiene, How did I not notice my entire life and my you have asked, realized
explain why they had to hive you well because I was, I was evidence of my parents crime. So here's the fundamental problem with racism is that it's an idea that is defeated over and over again by people contradicting what people have been told, and that is black and white, cannot mixed colors cannot mix and when people mixed they proved that it can happen. They prove that you can have beautiful children. They prove that love can cross color boundaries, and so now person like me, is a product that creates a murky world, so the police would take house like me, live with. My skin tone is called colored in South Africa and so Cal it would be removed. Infracolic communities of I couldn't get a child of a black woman can get a child of a black person. Period to a I was superior to a black parent. But I couldn't be with a white parents either because by the law, you know why person was superior to me, and so you would have to keep each person in their group to maintain a system that truthfully doesn't makes.
So how do you figure out? Who you are you tell a beautiful story of the time you were sent to this model? See school right lies and they say to you: you're good, We in this class a row bright, ok, explained that you know the hardest thing growing up in enlivens funny identifying, who you are one of the toughest things you go through human being, regardless of the world around you, I'm just growing up when you were a child. Who are you, you know? How do you see it? your. How do you see your personality? How do you see everything you as a human being and now compound that with a state? has defined you in a way that doesn't match with the www exploring I lived in a world with only people I saw were black awry, and because I don't walk round with the mirror. I only saw myself as the people around me. That was the mirror for my world and then you didn't see yourself as a light skinned large. I just saw myself, As somebody I was travelling, yeah, that's what I knew myself is and in the family no one said come here like kid. They would like us trouble, so you
never occurred to occurred to you that all my skin is lighter than no Sano. Kids would say it, but that's the same way. They would talk about a fat, kid or skinny kid told killer shortcut. It was a characteristic of yours, ok, and so it was also never something that people used to exclude me growing up in the township. That was the fun things we gripping. The hood and kids would teach you, but what you had an indian we'd Wade was them going. We recognize you, we see ok, now, let's play together, and so for the first time I was lucky one when apartheid ended, my mother got a burglary for me to go to a private school and the private school was the first generation of mixed fisheries like a scholarship scholarship here, and so I was first generation of kids to be in a mixed environment, and so I thought that that was the world. I thought everyone was the same. We will all given school uniform we all had the same reading materials. So nobody had a class
everyone who for some around why people know because of my dad church, these places when seen why people experience where people, but you didn't experience them as white people exact Here's expenditure, that is the exact not as light person. That's a strange world to be introduced to is when, for the first time you start to learn about how races interact with each other and how races treat one another in a country and that happened to me when I went to my first public school when the teacher said to me. These are your test to come into this. Will these are your marks? This class I went to the class was only white kids and I didn't think it was abnormal until I went to reassess and then there was a flood of black children. That came out of nowhere. Does it where you come from they would like we're in another class. It will this I feel like I want to be. In that case, I understand your languages. I connect without you and then my teacher said to me: you can go to their classical, that's the small class. You want to be in the class you're and she said if you go there
The rest of your life may not go in the direction you wanted to, and I chose to go into the black fuss and I'm sorry open. When I read that in the book you ve got to have that teacher on your, shall I should actually you're gonna. Do that you gotta bring that teacher, you got it, open. The USA come on and said, and my seat on yeah yeah. So in all those years the thing that really got me about this book and I actually run a review of it. That said, it's a love letter to your mother. I mean you and your mom. First of all, your mom she's a bad ass man yeah. It's just
just ask your woman too said she on purpose intentionally wanted to have you, for I knew it was against the law. Nor is against a lot of being with a white person, so I won't do it anyway. Right, yes and I'm gonna, this child and on their raises child away. I want to raise, is child rights. Yeah most people would have assigned to protest governments, oppression, I had me- and you know in in telling my story in writing this book. I never thought it was about my mom. I think most of us believe that we, the heroes of our story and in writing the story area. Is that I was my mother's punk. Yes, I'd kick you know, I I genuinely. I didn't set out to write it about my mother. Oh, I just I was telling my story and it's funny how you sit down and then you come to realize the people in your life who have shaped you and who play a big one who you are- and I quote now that my mother was that person for me who stood up at a time when, when many people afraid just end up
country was being punished for standing up and she said no as a woman and as a black person, I will leave the way I believe I am allowed to live with. You tell me I cannot and she did that and so because of that she's the example that I live my life by without realizing the consequences and that, for me, is one of the most gangs for human beings. You can shape is all this because I got on pay. Seventy three was one of the greatest tributes. You said the highest wrong. What's possible, listen you're the highest wrong. What possible is far beyond the world you can see. My mother showed me what was possible. The thing that always the maize me about her life was that no
I showed you I'd like their part. No one shows her. She did it on her own. She found her way through sheer force of will. An amazing things. She had this crazy data. My mom till the day refuses to buy a new car refuses to live in the world of money. Refused she just doesn't own thing. She has like her little garden in the back yard. She raises chickens, she lives or cheese is good. The church she she is you're, the only person I interviewed that I can remember whose a famous person report than I did. I mean the fact that we could talk. Outhouses armies, that's insane rise insane and that's a weed experience that not many people can understand fully is growing up with an outhouse like which just
all in the ground. You do your thing, it's it's a humbling experience and I also it's it's a bunch of jumping glad I did it, but I don't do it again. That is true. I loved the first I will show you were saying that two things you don't think we're possible this avenue idea and but the truth is, doesn't it make now how many bathrooms you have now? How many? But I have two three three three bathroom three, that's just in America, I've got like like three more back home, I'm boiling over a volley falling out all right now, every time. Every time I think I've got size in my house right now. I'm sorry: well you Oprah, every time I mean there are. There are moments still when I'm in the bathroom that whole like being able to flush, it is right there,
spent with other people. People think this is a joke, but my group, here's the thing is well, might as it does the outhouse do something. You never forget your personal. You never forget the smell. No, you just can't because it doesn't go way. There's no flushing yeah, there's! No, it's just its perpetual existing. What you do They will be told you today. There is always and your family stories, I told you you as well as you existed, but but like I knew how to fear going out. As I always thought I was gonna fall. You think you're gonna fall in God, we have people falling in the employ of someone fell in and I dont know who fell in, but I believe the story and here's the thing my grandmother still lives in the same house. We grew up in and now we ve converted the outhouse into a flushing toilet, which he mumbled my grandmother insist on keeping outdoors. Could she likes it? Could she doesn't like the idea of a toilet, that's indoors,
like that's ridiculous, why would I want that happening inside my how so much so when I go to my grandmother's, I'm like it's completely the same thing, the same door, the same world that I experience because my grandmother's like no, I I love ok. So what I also love is a? U talk in the book about the black tax. Yes, why people on another about back people, have a black tax buzz. You expected explained the black tax or he's here's. The thing is, I think this is indeed one of the hardest conversations to have with people is like you know. Oftentimes weakens conversations, especially today, where Why people will say not all, but why people will have a conversation with a say. I don't understand why a black person feels so oppressed. We ve lived the same lives. We ve grown up. The sea. Well, yes, I understand. Maybe your parents were oppressed, but now you free so what's the issue and then, when you come to realize, is apart from traces of systemic or systemic oppression that still exist, there is also one underlying issue and that
The devastation that impact at your generational family, like like those of things that you take for granted, even if you say well, my grandfather wasn't rich. I got nothing from him yet, but you ve got opportunity. You got knowledge, you got ideas, you got things that many black families robbed of, and so I wouldn't have to dissolve employees. I've done hundreds of show's over the years and the official- and I remember- being in an audience talking about raising the white woman said exactly that. To that, I guess I didn't do it too. Why should I still feel right? Has I didn't do it you that was your grandmother's and re grandmothers? I was trying to do exactly what you just did Explain what, if your grandmother had never been allowed to work as anything other than a made right? What if your grandfather could never find a job? what if nobody in your family was ever treated like, they were full.
When dealing with that had any impact at all on you? Do you think you would have felt area so as to ensure anything? You know what the best way I it's funny. It happened the other day when I was watching the documentary on Hurricane Sandy in New York and in New Jersey and looking at the effects and after after the hurricane hits people were devastated, businesses would demolished and the government stepped in and said we will give you subsidies. We will give you low interest loans. We will help you get back on your feet, because the people understood that that devastation It is to be corrected, and so, if that has happened to a people, if there has been a hurricane of racism that as obliterated people, wouldn't you then need to come back in and say we will help you get back on your feet because you have lost
they recognise and what happened to you and that's an essentially that's what in many ways the black taxes is that the first generation of success for many black people means you now have to go back and work and correcting everything I have to get my brother's through school have to get my family through school have to get my younger cousin will have to give, because you are the first of an entire family to experience that success and the greatest give my mother gave me, and she always said it was my son. I may not be able to give you one cent in this world, but I promise you. I will not go
the black tax. That's the one thing I'll keep from you. I will handle it. You go and fly in the world what you don't so interesting as one of my girls more how I sent a payment mile. That's one of my daughter's from south africa- and I say this to the girls all the time that that's going to be the greatest burden, unless you free it for myself right that you get to decide what that tax should be right, nobody else gets to tell you, because just the fact that you can see yourself, that is when your ancestors would have wanted, for you there's also a guilty touched with it. You know that's enough something Mama the hallways. She had to go on a journey where she left the family because she realized she needed to build before she could give back, and sometimes as human beings. We exist in space and this is beyond race, where we have people who need from us and we haven't built for ourselves yet, and you cannot give what you do not have, and so some
as you have to build on those governments now give Greece France, you know if you, if you build up for yourself first yeah, then you can give it to others. Thank you, you're, so right about that. I just want to know, as I kept waiting in the book for you to tell us how you ended up on the daily show that happen to you. That was one of the most surreal experiences ever I was for the first time during the world. I just bought a touring in the UK and I was doing company in the world. We should a lifelong dream for me and I was walking through Harrods I'll, never forget this, it's crazy store where they sell everything that nobody can afford. Most of us cannot afford, and so I was walking around looking just crazy things in the world and my phone rings and it's an american number and I answer and the voice and ever since it. How can I speak to terminal illness if speaking
and the worst hi. This is John Stewart. I said yes cause, I'm not thinking it's De John Stewart like if I got cold by someone said I'm abroad. We like Opera Stevenson, I'm just gonna. I'm sure like of course, o Brien, oh yeah, Sombre Norwich John Stewart is calling me and so as John Stewart fry. So I'm sorry, I'm just you and I hope the danish Krone Maggie may have heard of it. They give cause I've heard of the show and he said well like Senor Comedy and I'm a big fan of you were heavy signor, your company on Youtube and you too, and then he said hey. I was wondering if you ever come to America. Would you like to pop into the show and hang out, I think you'd like what we do, and maybe we could I'm gonna be there next Tuesday and funny enough not, I should know you think now like I said this is the greatest moment of my life, but I've worked so hard to get what I have in the U K these people on board tickets is the most important thing that ever happened to me. Thank you would know and he pausing civic. Are you seriously saying no- and I said here, but I'm thank you
thank you, but no, the asking you to leave I knew I would argue that I would have to cancel my true that have to go now. I wish I had not ignore I've worked for this. I worked for these people at work. I don't take my I respect that I was in. I did that and John said well, when you ever do come to New York. Look me up and let's hang out, and I did that a year and a half later in the year and a half later reminds me historical. I won't tell it here in parliament now. What about me? It's it's a story about character and heard that story that you just tell him, and that is the sign of character and remember early on doing an interview with Singapore yea, where he had told of Amy wanting to be in the film industry and he'd gone too audition for this role he was making.
Less than a dollar and our as dishwasher, and this war was going to pay him seven hundred dollars a week and the role of a janitor, which you said you didn't have problems being a janitor, janitors, Doner, gets murdered and then daughter is thrown out onto the lawn he said he would do anything his father wouldn't have done. He wouldn t take the role because he thought it would bring, does honour to his father to play a father who would allow his daughter to be thrown out, so he turned down the role while turned down the role and after he left. The guy says: who is a guy turned down
that role and that guy ended up being his agent for over fifty years after that? But it's a sign of character to say, even though I got the call that most people wait for their entire lives, I have a responsibility and a respect for my fans and I won't take the call again. What's going on your mama raised, really good son were used and they said we want you now to step in and do it I was. I was surprised because I in my world, I had no chance, but I come from a world where there was no chance. So every chance I've taken is the one that's impossible. I would say to people: why do the possible.
It's boring. If you succeed like do they possible thing, because if you don't get the right, people like you, weren't gonna, get it right, and if you do, you do the impossible, and so for me, was like I'll throw my name in and if I don't get the Danish, why was never meant to get the data show? But if I get it, this is something that I would have never dreamed of doing, and so they called me. I was doing chosen to buy and I got a phone call and they said hey with look through everyone. We ve gone through all our decisions. Would you like to be the host of the daily show and if I wasn't sitting down I would have fallen over, would have fainted, but was mine blowing and I couldn't get out the whole proposal by the like. I am so happy. There was everything it really was, and what is your intention with this show every night? It's not just about the funny. I think in many ways it is about the funding for me, but it's how I see the funny that defines the show. So I've come to realise- and this is partly by speaking to greet comedians who have been meant was
friends in my life. You know the likes of Dave Chapelle and Chris Rockin and Eddie Murphy and reading about Richard Prior De Gregory people who said to me. The truth is where the funny lies tell the truth, and that's where you find the funniest jokes and so for me, in pursuing the funny I put the truth, and if I find the truth and the funny will marry with that and so in it's in the show, I'm some who loves engaging in the news I love discussing. I, yes, I love engaging in conversation and in debates, and Where is it tat? I loved every single day we can say we are having a good time of every single data journey for me and for me it's it's it's. The purpose of the show is to engage in the news in a manner that is critical in the start, to think about what's happening process, it reacted and, most importantly, give it the risk that it deserves, whilst not also giving it the power to completely control you emotional states. Absolutely I read
Are you said you believe we reached a tipping point of outrage and in justice, that's pretty profound. Coming for somebody who lived through a parted, why it's worrying when you look at what is happening in America in some parts of the world as well, but America's getting to a place, where it feels like it is extremely divided along partisan lines and conversations have shifted to a point where human beings no longer see a human being on the other side of this discussion and it's tough to say that one side should be empathetic towards the other side, when the other side doesn't see them as human beings. That's a fundamental breakdown that seems to be happening in America and you
content and- and this is my thing is, I tell people are timely. Go like all of you hate America. Why am I never said any element? If I will, if I love it, I wouldn't be. Here is a great place. I enjoy America of Americans. I have a great time having an issue. Would Donald Trump doesn't make me unique, because every Republicans short before he was in office, you know, and so, if, as you said, going back to character, if your character shifts depending on is in power than wasn't your character to begin with. That's the way I see so I dont think in this instance, and I mean there are many people who consider themselves. Conservatives who told us they go. No, this party, I don't recognize this man. I do not recognise- and I cannot go with this because he does not a spouse. My views that I have proclaimed for such a long time,
So I think anyone's honest in that sphere understands that it's not about partisan anything, it's about seeing what you see pointing it out and speaking the truth. You feel you had astride, I you know it's interesting. I listened to your pod costs about when you are creating your show and when you creating a show, especially when its daily there are moments. When you feel like you, we like of hit my stride in moments after a break like I'll I'll go away for two weeks and we come back and kick off the show and there's someone like those muscle memory that works without me trying. But I dont ever think that I've hit my stride. It's very much like an athletic event. You always trying to be, Are you always waiting interesting? So by striving do you think is found your way? I think I've reshaped how I've seen the show, because when I first started the daily show, and when I took over the from Jon Stewart I had an idea of what I wanted to show to be. I've no comes to realize that I am existing in the show, is existing as an organism in a in a world that is constantly changing
so I cannot give it a concrete definition, because the world around it is constantly shaping how it reacts. Ok, so if anything I wished for the show to be like water should be moving with the same force as it moves through ideas and conversations, and sometimes the show will be a vessel for me to express my catharsis and the capacities of the people watching sometimes to place for us to enjoy laughter. Sometimes it's a place for to learn something new. I think it's about finding it. Into which we express our points of view in and around what the news is every single day. That's what I'm trying to do on the show, but I've come to realise. There is no fixed points I'm sailing in a direction aiming for true North, but its shifting with the tide, and you you constantly trying to keep the boat where it needs to go verses. Were you It should go. You got that is you have to let it guide you revised its bigger than you
and you were there to be used by it, and so you allow it to take you where it needs to go. It is my great pleasure in delight my mobile winfried, when you ve been listening to supersede conversations you can follow super soul on Instagram, twitter and Facebook. If you haven't yet go to apple pie, CAS unsubscribe rate and reviews. This pledge gas join me next week for another supersede conversation. Thank you for listening,
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Transcript generated on 2021-03-08.