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Trevor Noah was born to a (White European) Swiss father and (Black African) South African (Xhosa) mother. His mixed-race heritage, his experiences growing up in a Soweto township, and his observations about race and ethnicity are leading themes in his comedy.
Noah had a small role on the South African soap opera, Isidingo in 2002, when he was 18. He then began hosting his own radio show Noah’s Ark on Gauteng’s leading youth radio station, YFM. Noah then went on to host an educational program Run The Adventure from 2004-2006 on SABC2. In 2007 he hosted The Real Goboza, a gossip show on SABC1, and Siyadlala a SABC's sports show. In 2008 Noah co-hosted alongside Pabi Moloi on The Amazing Date (dating game-show) and was a Strictly Come Dancing Season 4. In 2009 he hosted the 3rd Annual South Africa Film and Television Awards (SAFTA Awards) and co-hosted alongside Eugene Khoza on The Axe Sweet Life (reality competition series) at the 15th annual South African Music Awards. In 2010 Noah hosted the 16th annual South African Music Awards and also hosted Tonight with Trevor Noah on MNet (in the second season it moved to DStv's Mzansi Magic Channel). In 2010, Noah also became a spokesperson and consumer protection agent for Cell C, South Africa's third largest cellular provider.
Noah dropped his radio show and acting to focus on comedy, and has performed with South African comedians such as Riaad Moosa, Darren Simpson, Marc Lottering, Barry Hilton and Nik Rabinowitz, international comedians such as Paul Rodriguez, Carl Barron and Paul Zerdin, and as the opening act for Gabriel Iglesias in November 2007 and Canadian comedian Russell Peters on his South African tour.
Noah has performed all over South Africa in The Blacks Only Comedy Show, Heavyweight Comedy Jam, the Vodacom Campus Comedy Tour, the Cape Town International Comedy Festival, the Jozi Comedy Festival, and Bafunny Bafunny (2010). His stand-up comedy specials in South Africa include The Daywalker (2009), Crazy Normal (2011), That's Racist (2012), and It's My Culture (2013).
On 6 January 2012 Noah became the first South African stand-up comedian to appear on The Tonight Show and on 17 May 2013, he became the first to appear on Late Show with David Letterman. Noah was the subject of the 2012 documentary You Laugh But It's True. The same year he starred in the one-man comedy show Trevor Noah: The Racist which was based on his similarly titled South African special That's Racist. In 2013 he performed the comedy special Trevor Noah: African American. On 11 October 2013 he was a guest on BBC Two's comedy panel show QI. On 29 November 2013 he was a panelist on Channel 4 game show 8 out of 10 Cats.