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The reason Trevor Noah’s grandma doesn’t watch “The Daily Show” is a classic South African problem

Trevor Noah’s grandmother misses Daily Show due to electricity blackouts
Invision/AP/Jordan Strauss
Grandma's boy.
  • Lynsey Chutel
By Lynsey Chutel


Published This article is more than 2 years old.

As part of his “Self-Deportation Editon,” Trevor Noah took his Daily Show audience to his childhood home in Soweto in an MTV Cribs-style spoof, “Cribs: Oppression Edition.” He walks through the narrow streets that have changed little since Noah’s childhood, and shows off the improvised security systems that life in the township required.

The highlight of the visit is Noah’s grandmother, Nomalizo Frances Noah. At 91 and nine months (she insists on counting the months) she still lives in her old home and refuses to visit New York City.

Noah talks to her about life during apartheid, and the impact of Nelson Mandela’s life and leadership on black South Africans. She talks matter-of-factly about the horror of unpaid work on potato farms and the fear of white policemen. She also recalls how hard it was to hide a mixed-race child in Soweto, an experience Noah also shared in his memoir Born a Crime.

It’s also clear Grandmother Noah gave the younger Noah his sense of humor. The two of them take an ironic pleasure in the fact that Noah now has white people working for him.

“Those big bums, they know my slippers,” she says, recalling what rambunctious child he was.

When asked why she’s never watched one of his shows (which airs a day later across Africa on satellite television DStv via Comedy Central Africa), Grandma Noah gives a very South African answer: “load-shedding.”

The term refers to the scheduled rolling blackouts implemented by the national power supplier, Eskom. Last month, Eskom announced that it would begin implementing load-shedding to preserve the strained national power grid. First implemented in 2014, load-shedding has become part of the South African zeitgeist, causing chaos as Eskom struggles to stick to its blackout schedule or hit some areas worse than others.

Load-shedding was supposed to have ended in 2016, but corruption in state-owned companies has left South Africa, a coal-producing country, without enough coal. It’s just one example of how South Africa’s infrastructure is struggling to keep up with the country’s ambitions. Still, despite the frustration South Africans like Noah’s grandmother have handled the issue with humor.

“You know that DStv dish outside, it’s just for show,” Noah’s grandmother joked. She then roped her grandson into buying her a generator and getting someone to install it and maintain it for her.

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