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Trevor Noah: Off the Record - The O2 Arena

The observational comedy is on point, for the most part – there was a bit about the German national anthem, which these days has only one verse, the ‘über alles’ thing having been abandoned decades ago. What Trevor Noah had to say about it was all true, but I failed to see what was funny about it: of course, Germany could no longer consider itself to be ‘above all in the world’ having been defeated in World War Two (and indeed World War One). Stuff about Donald Trump came across as well covered ground, even if Noah’s impression of him was quite, quite brilliant.

People’s experiences in a place like The O2 Arena begin at the entrance. The security checks were the best I’ve ever known them to be, with instructions to keep moving forward: I was through in less than a minute, with no need to empty my pockets of all things metallic (pretty much everything – keys, alarm fob, Oyster card, mobile phone). The last time I was at this venue, I had a member of staff evidently in need of a shower brush a device over my limbs – goodness knows what he was checking for. Trays were flying around backwards and forwards all over the place, as though the arena were an airport. All of that was ditched, at least for this gig.

Noah’s recollection of a story about a particularly punctilious security check at the airport (the man is, if nothing else, well-travelled) brought those previous O2 Arena experiences to mind, and I chortled away at Noah’s impression of indecipherable public address announcements that if anything cause more confusion than clarification. I also liked an opening gambit about photographs in the digital era. Despite repeated pre-show announcements to turn off mobile phones and electronic devices “completely” (as opposed to, what, a partial shutdown?) a lot of people insisted on getting a picture of Noah. His response was to observe how some people take photos of absolutely everything, only to find they run out of memory, so spend time deleting so much of what they already spent time taking pictures of previously. In other words, it’s all a complete waste of time and effort. As someone who doesn’t bother taking pictures of absolutely everything, I felt very vindicated.

As a South African, Noah grew up in a place where shootings and stabbings were commonplace (he says he would prefer, given the choice, the latter, as it would give him a chance to say something before hitting the ground), so it was a surprise to discover a front page story he found during a visit to Scotland about an attempted murder. Nobody actually died – the Scots, in Noah’s view, have a very safe and comfortable way of life. I hadn’t seen him live before, and I’ve only seen clips of his material on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, so I don’t know if he’s one of those people that recycles the same stuff from tour to tour. But I laughed heartily, whether he was on about gaining control of the armrests on a flight when sat in the middle seat, or a rant about ‘loadshedding’ in South Africa – no other country, he wryly observed, to laughter from his London audience, would be so ridiculous as to sell public utilities to private companies. Yes, I’d see him again – his easy-going style is very appealing.

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