The untold truth of Trevor Noah

When Trevor Noah was tapped to take over as host of The Daily Show upon Jon Stewart's departure in 2015, the South African comedian was largely unknown to most Americans. 

But during his hosting tenure, the comedian's outsider point of view has helped shape the sociopolitical satire machine into an entirely new, inclusive, and diverse direction.

And 2017 is shaping up to be a massive year for the comedian: after winning the MTV TV & Movie Award for Best Host and the GLAAD Award for Outstanding Talk Show Episode, his acclaimed 2016 autobiography, Born a Crime, was reviewed by Bill Gates. Plus, The Daily Show just enjoyed it's most-watched week since his debut.

But how much do you really know about Trevor Noah? These facts may just surprise you!

Noah was 'born a crime'

"I didn't live a normal life — I grew up in a country that wasn't normal," Noah told the New York Times in 2015.

The comedian was "born a crime" in Soweto, South Africa to a black Xhosa mother, Patricia Nombuyiselo, and a white Swiss-German father, Robert Noah, in 1984. Under Apartheid, which only ended in 1990, his parents' multiracial relationship was illegal. And as expressed in Born a Crime, his birth "violated any number of laws, statutes and regulations."

Going out in public with his parents meant risking arrest and Noah risking separation from his family, reclassification by the government, and being put in an orphanage. So, he wasn't allowed outside very often during the first six years of his life.

"The only time I could be with my father was indoors … If we left the house, he'd have to walk across the street from us," he wrote in his book. "[My mother] would hold my hand or carry me, but if the police showed up she would have to drop me and pretend I wasn't hers."

The late-night host regards his multicultural upbringing, and the racism and poverty he faced during his childhood, as a huge part of his identity. "I'm a product of that existence, of that world," he told Time Out London in 2013.

Trevor speaks six languages

Due to his mixed heritage, Noah can impressively speak six of South Africa's 11 common languages: English, Xhosa, Zulu, Tswana, Tsonga, and Afrikaans. However, as explained in his book, English was his first language; his mother made this decision to give her son more opportunities later in life.

"If you're black in South Africa, speaking English is the one thing that can give you a leg up," he wrote (via Vulture). "English is the language of money. English comprehension is equated with intelligence. If you're looking for a job, English is the difference between getting the job or staying unemployed. If you're standing in the dock, English is the difference between getting off with a fine or going to prison."

Language was a way to camouflage his biracial identity: to "cross boundaries, handle situations, [and] navigate the world." Growing up, he often used it to become "a chameleon" and essentially survive. "Maybe I didn't look like you, but if I spoke like you, I was you," he wrote (via New York Times).

His love for language has only increased. In 2013, he told Time Out London he was learning German. "I'm writing a set in German, which is taking me forever, but I'm slowly doing that," he said. "So I definitely want to do Germany — that's my new passion country that I want to perform in. And then? I'll see from there."

Noah grew up in a very religious household

As a child, Noah and his mother, Patricia, attended three church services every Sunday.

Patricia was incredibly religious and felt that each church "gave her something different," he explained in Born a Crime. According to Vulture's recap of the memoir, the two "started the day at a 'jubilant' mixed-race … suburban megachurch," where Christian-rock abounded.

From there, they would hit "an 'analytical' white church," where the comedian also attended Sunday school, inspiring a life-long interest in Biblical stories. The pair's last stop was "a 'passionate, cathartic' black church, where the service would last for three to four hours."

But when Noah was around 10 years old, his mother converted to Judaism — which, he explained during an interview with NPR, caused much confusion. "I lived my life … as a part-white, part-black but then sometimes-Jewish kid. And I didn't understand 'cause she didn't make me convert," he said. 

However, the 33-year-old is now thankful for said confusion. "I think that was the gift my mother gave me," he told NPR. "Whatever it was, my mom said, 'I'm going to seek out more,'" which meant "not staying in the space that you are was supposed to be in, whether it be racially, whether it be in a community, whether it be gender norms." 

That disorientation, he decided, "leads to a way more colorful life."

He once spent a week in jail

As a teenager, Trevor Noah was a bit of a rebel. In fact, it once got him into serious trouble when he was arrested and spent a week in jail.

As explained in Born a Crime, his stepfather was a mechanic who owned a workshop. One day, Noah decided to take one of his stepdad's junk cars out for a spin. He was pulled over almost immediately.

"Cops in South Africa don't give you a reason when they pull you over," he wrote (via Vulture). "Cops pull you over because they're cops and they have the power to pull you over; it's as simple as that."

As Vulture summarized, Noah was technically breaking the law. And to make matters worse for the teen, the car's plates and registration didn't match, so he was promptly "arrested on suspicion of driving a stolen vehicle."

The comedian spent one scary week in jail, unsure of how to navigate the space socially, until he was luckily released on bail. He later found out his mother paid for his bail.

Comedy wasn't his first professional gig

Noah wasn't always focused on comedy — that shift came much later in his career. 

Instead, after graduating high school, he got his start in show business as an extra on the popular South African soap opera Isidingo in 2002. And although his tenure was short-lived, Tema Sebopedi, one of the show's stars, sweetly sent him a supportive shout-out as he began his Daily Show gig 13 years later.

According to the Huffington Post ZA, Noah began a career as a radio DJ with a Yfm radio show called Noah's Ark two years later. As TVSA highlighted, the show aired between midnight and 3 am.

But in 2007, the then-radio host made the big switch over to TV, taking on a hosting gig on the celebrity gossip show The Real Goboza — in a way, prepping to one day take over The Daily Show. This job led to several other hosting positions in various genres of television shows, including a sports show called SiyadlalaAmazing Date in 2008, and The AXE Sweet Life in 2009.

He also competed on 'Strictly Come Dancing'

Not only is Noah a talented comedian and host, he's also apparently a really good dancer.

In 2008, he came in second on the fourth season of South Africa's version of the reality dance competition Strictly Come Dancing.

According to Entertainment Tonight, he was actually the favorite to win the series before losing out to actor Emmanuel Castis. During the finale, Noah and his professional dance partner, Hayley Hammond, brought the Cha Cha to Michael Jackson's "Thriller." 

Sadly, there is no video evidence of what must have been a truly incredible moment in television history. However, you can catch Noah showing off some of his dancing skills at the beginning of this clip.

The comedian later discussed his experience on the show during an appearance on LIVE with Kelly in 2016. After joking that his "specialty" was "being nervous before dancing," he told the hosts that he was "actually really good at ballroom … and "loved Latin, but ballroom was my forte." 

Noah also recalled that participating on Strictly Come Dancing was "the most stressful experience ever," noting that the contestants had to practice an astounding 14-16 hours per day. 

But don't expect the late-night host to grace Dancing with the Stars with his moves any time soon. "It was like bungee-jumping," he admitted. "I would never do it again, but I'm glad that I did it." 

Noah honed his hosting expertise in South Africa

As Noah continued to host various TV shows and delved deeper into comedy (and dancing), he actually scored his own late-night show just before emigrating to the States.

As the Huffington Post ZA noted, 2009 proved to be a game-changing year in the comedian's career. In addition to successfully hosting (and being invited back the following year) the South African Music Awards, his first televised stand-up special, The Daywalker, made him a household name in South Africa. 

From there, Noah went on to host Tonight With Trevor Noah, which ran for two seasons between 2010 and 2011. According to Entertainment Tonight, the show was done "in the tradition of late night shows such as … The Daily Show with Jon Stewart." It must have been fate!

He and his mother endured domestic abuse

As alluded to above, Noah and his mother suffered years of devastating abuse at the hands of his stepfather.

The 33-year-old recently expressed to People that when he was younger, he didn't understand why his mother stayed. "She said, 'Because if I leave, he will kill us,'" he recalled. "I thought she was being overly dramatic; I didn't understand it, and she left, and … within a matter of a few years, he tried to kill the family."

In 2009, Noah's stepfather shot his mother in the back of the head, but she miraculously survived, as the bullet missed her brain and arteries. After being convicted of attempted murder, his stepfather was only sentenced to three years' probation.

"I remember after the shooting … all I felt was rage," Noah expressed. "My mother said to me, 'Don't hate him for doing this, but rather pity him because he too is a victim…of a world that has thrust upon him an idea of masculinity that he has subscribed to and is now a part of. As for myself, I do not wish to imbue myself with a hatred that only I will carry.'"

It took years for the comedian to fully understand this. "I think watching my mom, her growth post-shooting, our family and the way we became stronger, really became the example that I chose to live by," he reflected. "That's really what I've stuck to, and that's how I try to live my life every day."