‘Where Was I?’ Review: An Unenthusiastic Take On Trevor Noah’s Travels Around The World

Trevor Noah is easily one of the best stand-up comedians out there today. His long work with The Daily Show gives him the pedestal to speak about any subject on a global stage that would be relevant to the people of the countries that were colonized for years, including his home country, South Africa. It was The Daily Show that allowed him to grow as a writer and a presenter who made sure to bring up the subject of colonialism, colonizers, and the impact these powerful countries left on many other countries in the global south.

Trevor Noah has done ten specials before Where Was I?, and this special was shot in Detroit. Trevor wasted no time jumping into a subject matter that is in direct reference to the title of the show, Where Was I? It was interesting to hear Trevor Noah talk about Germany and France, the latest countries he performed in. Unfortunately, he used these two countries as a reference for global experience. This could annoy a lot of the audience living on the other side of the world. His point of view is divorced from the audience who do not live or understand American pop culture references.  

The writing by Trevor Noah himself was easy to follow and relatable to some extent, but it was all a bit obvious and did not land. It did not generate genuine laughter. The auditorium he was speaking in generated applause when the set became a little too preachy. The entire one-hour, eight-minute special did not generate enough laughter to make the show seem interesting till the end. A lot of humor in the set was about the stereotypes associated with the Germans and the French. This kind of humor has been witnessed before in many other stand-up specials and television shows. It is painful to watch a comedian of this stature, resort to such feeble jokes to sustain the audience. His set reeked of trying to please the global audience that wants everyone to be politically correct, including the comedians.

Trevor’s set on the show had references to the Germans who reformed their nation after the Second World War, and it also included bits about French people and their nonchalant behavior towards tourists who visit their country. It also shed light on how the French define their lives based on their mood, unlike people from other countries who introduce themselves based on the job they do. This is a tried and tested kind of comedy that has been used and overused, especially in a lot of American television shows that try to stereotype the French people as ‘pretentious’.

The writing could have been far more nuanced to give the set more of a punch, but here the focus was a lot on emphasizing the story being conveyed by adding humor to it. The only aspect that thoroughly works is the impressions Trevor Noah did of people of different nationalities, and it adds a layer of good comic timing. These acts did generate laughter because there was a sense of relatability to them. Otherwise, plenty of writing midway was almost like Trevor giving an address on a TedTalk stage. A comedy set is supposed to push the boundaries and talk about subjects that would not just make people chuckle but also make them uncomfortable and awkward. Trevor Noah sadly played things safe here, which was the biggest setback of the show.

The entire section around Christopher Columbus was tiring and stretched beyond a certain limit. The race-related jokes seem to have been the talk of the town because of the subject of inclusivity and the global movement about recognizing people of color. If only Trevor Noah had not fallen back on staple jokes. The jokes were very vague and broad, and it seems the comedian refused to get into the refinement and let the jokes simmer for some time at the surface level. The whole set was a sad amalgamation of topics that could have stirred the pot, but none of these subjects had any depth for the audience to relate to. The subset about the national anthems, museums, and things that white people love to some extent, but it was too late for these subjects to find a stronghold and salvage the set. Trevor Noah brought out the right kind of subjects a bit too late, and there could have been a better way to present the show, which seems bland from the start till the end.

The pandering in the last set was the biggest letdown because of its zero relatability. Plenty of time was spent explaining the set, and the concluding punchline ruined the show. The cameo in the end would not rescue the show. The forceful addition of the celebrity to the show only made the attempt slightly desolate, and it ruined the watching experience.

One expects a quality show from Trevor Noah because of his experience and expertise, but sadly, neither of the two was on display. A stand-up show must be an immersive experience and hard-hitting at the same time. People should be questioning the subjects discussed in the set, and such heavy engagement would mean the chosen subject was interesting enough for people to talk about it with each other and on social media as well. Unfortunately. Trevor Noah’s Where Was I? will not generate enough talk. This stand-up special was an unenthusiastic take on his travels around the world, which is sadly restricted to one region.

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Smriti Kannan
Smriti Kannan
Smriti Kannan is a cinema enthusiast, and a part time film blogger. An ex public relations executive, films has been a major part of her life since the day she watched The Godfather – Part 1. If you ask her, cinema is reality. Cinema is an escape route. Cinema is time traveling. Cinema is entertainment. Smriti enjoys reading about cinema, she loves to know about cinema and finding out trivia of films and television shows, and from time to time indulges in fan theories.

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