A lesson in learning how to be black

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The Independent Online

According to Newsweek magazine, the appearance of the South African comedian Trevor Noah on The Tonight Show earlier this year had sub-Saharan newspapers reporting it "as if it were breaking news".

That Noah is now in Edinburgh is a result of Eddie Izzard's zeal for promoting the "globality" of stand-up. He is co-producing the show and, as the Americans have already found out, it is clear that Noah travels well.

The mixed-race child of a white Swiss father and a black mother, Noah was "born a crime" in apartheid South Africa. The US duly beckoned, he says, because "everybody is black out there". The move is good for his identity, good for his career and, though it is not mentioned tonight, a way of putting distance between himself and his former stepfather, who made death threats against him.

Once in the US, however, Noah finds things are still not straightforward. Mexicans want to adopt him as theirs and he finds the definition of "mixed-race people" is still a moveable feast, with no better example than Barack Obama who, in the eyes of US comics, went from "mixed fool" to "my nigger!"