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CNN'S AMANPOUR

Trevor Noah Takes London By Storm; Sketching Syria's Civil War. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired May 25, 2018 - 14:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[14:00:00]

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Tonight, one of the world's great satiric voices weighs in on the royal wedding, the triumph of black creativity and

finding the upside in Donald Trump's presidency. I go backstage with "Daily Show" host Trevor Noah as he prepared to his sold-out performance at

London's O2 Arena.

Plus, sketching Syria's civil war. Award-winning American artist Molly Crabapple and Syrian writer Marwan Hisham tell me about their unlikely

collaboration.

Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.

Trevor Noah has cemented his place in Donald Trump's America using his unique comic voice to speak truth to power every night on "The Daily Show".

But Noah's past to his Comedy Central perch is an amazing story in its own right. As his memoir says, he was literally born of crime in apartheid

South Africa as the child of a white father and a black mother.

Now, as he puts it, he has broken in to the world's elite, recognized by "TIME Magazine" as one of the 100 most influential people of 2018.

I spoke with Trevor Noah shortly before his sold out comedy performance at London's massive O2 stadium, a gig that coincided with the royal wedding.

His show is called the "End of Days Tour" and I asked him about finding laughter in the shadow of the apocalypse.

Trevor, welcome back to the program.

TREVOR NOAH, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW": Thank you so much for having me back.

AMANPOUR: What is the "End of Days"? Is this like some millenarian, I don't know, disaster story? Why?

NOAH: Well, you know what, I call it the "End of Days" tour because in many ways that's what people feel like this is. You feel like it's the end

of days.

It feels like there's war starting everywhere. It feels like governments are switching over, there's populism growing all around the world and

there's a sentiment and a feeling especially online of people feeling like it is the end of days.

The end of days is upon us. And so, I figured it's going to be the end of the world, you may as well have one more comedy tour. So, that's why I

called it End of Days comedy.

AMANPOUR: And how do you think it's going to assuage people's panic and fear?

NOAH: Oh, I don't think it will at all. I think, if anything, my show will confirm that the world is ending, but people will find much joy in

that definition of what's happening to us.

No, you know what, I think the world I live in is one of eternal optimism, which is not devoid of realism, but rather saying this is the world we live

in, but it's going to get better, it can get better, things are continually getting better.

And so, comedy, for me, always reminds me that I can and should feel better about what's happening.

AMANPOUR: So, can you tell us exactly what you feel better about and what was going to get better, like, in the United States?

NOAH: I'll give you an example in the United States. The downside, Donald Trump, president. The upside, more women than ever running for office.

AMANPOUR: That's a good one.

NOAH: So, that's the upside. More women than ever winning local state races. That's an upside that you wouldn't normally see.

Downside, Donald Trump, president. Upside, more young people engaged in politics than ever before.

AMANPOUR: More journalism.

NOAH: Exactly.

AMANPOUR: More comedy.

NOAH: Exactly.

AMANPOUR: More activism.

NOAH: So, there's going to be an upside with all of it.

AMANPOUR: You haven't been here, I think, for about two years and you said that a lot has happened in this country and I guess around the world in

those two years.

NOAH: Right.

AMANPOUR: What?

NOAH: Well, I mean, in many ways, for me, the UK has always been close to my heart, partly because of the history with South Africa, partly because

this was my first international audience that I had after South Africa and partly because I just kept up with what's been going on.

Brexit was, in many ways, the precursor to Trump. It was a movement that started. And now, we've learned how closely tied it was because of

Cambridge Analytica and the likes.

So, you really are dealing with a place that in many ways inspired a movement that you're seeing all over the world.

So, I keep tabs on what Britain is going through, what the people are experiencing, what's happening in the UK, how Theresa May is doing as prime

minister. And -

AMANPOUR: And what's your verdict? Her grade?

NOAH: I wouldn't give her a grade because I don't live here. I work of what people -

AMANPOUR: Could you get what feeds into your comedy?

NOAH: That's interesting. It depends on what mode of transport you're in in the UK. That's what I find.

So, if I find you, if you're in a private car, you may get a different reaction to when you're on the tube. So, it all depends on who you ask and

what mode of transport you're in and they'll give you a different grade for what Theresa May is doing.

AMANPOUR: And we just cannot escape the fact that Theresa May started it and Brexit continued it.

There is a horrible strain of nativism abroad, whether it's here, whether it's in Europe, whether it's in United States. And here, you're arriving

right in the middle of this Windrush crisis.

NOAH: Yes.

AMANPOUR: So many African, Caribbeans who were invited to Britain to rebuild this country.

NOAH: Right.

AMANPOUR: When there weren't enough people after the war.

NOAH: Right.

AMANPOUR: And are suddenly finding themselves persona non grata. I wonder how you take that. How do you?

NOAH: You have a group of people who were, for all intents and purposes, British. The British went around the world forcing people to be British.

Many of these people accepted that title, came to Britain, built what they believed was their country and then one day wake up and are told it's time

for you to go home.

But where is home if not the place that I've built. And so, when you see the story, you come to realize that, unfortunately, this fairy tale that

maybe we've told ourselves at times about how people have changed is not as true as we'd like it to believe.

I think we, at many times, realized that people are nicer when things are going well for them, but maybe that covers their true feelings and

emotions.

And so, we have to ask ourselves, if people always feel economically downtrodden and then become racists, are they ever not being racists or is

it just tied to economics or does being poor make you racist? And if that were true, then many people of color should be racist around the world and

that doesn't seem to be cause and effect.

So, I think, if anything, it shows you that, like, there are a lot of issues that we don't deal with when things are going well.

AMANPOUR: You didn't spare President Obama, the satirical side of your tongue.

NOAH: Right.

AMANPOUR: How different is it whaling on him compared to whaling on Donald Trump?

NOAH: Oh, I mean, to try and compare the two would be not just false equivalency, but absolute madness. Anyone who tries to compare them has to

admit that they're being crazy.

AMANPOUR: I'm not. I'm just saying how different is it as a comedian.

NOAH: Oh, wow! It cannot be more - a pair like - one is ripe for comedy. One is - for instance, Donald Trump has left no contradiction unturned.

That's his thing. Donald Trump is a gift to every level of comedy. If you want to apply comedy or satire at the lowest level, Donald Trump is ripe

for that. You don't have to dig deeper. But if you do dig deeper, you will get more from him as well.

Obama was, like many politicians, a water table that is very far beneath the surface. So, to get to the right joke and the right piece of satire

that would really illuminate what Obama was doing, you had to dig through so many layers and work through the weeds to get to the water table of

jokes.

Donald Trump has water on the surface. And the deeper you dig, the more water you find.

So, I think that's the difference between them. It's just there is more.

AMANPOUR: You are a person of color. In fact, you're half white, half black.

NOAH: Right.

AMANPOUR: So is Meghan Markle.

NOAH: Yes.

AMANPOUR: And you've been here during the incredible royal wedding. Black rocked the Royal Family this weekend.

NOAH: Right.

AMANPOUR: The reverend was phenomenal in his speech. The black gospel choir. The black cellist who apparently is only 19 years old.

NOAH: Right.

AMANPOUR: I mean, they've never seen anything like it.

NOAH: Right.

AMANPOUR: What did you get from watching? What did you -?

NOAH: I thought it was beautiful for many different reasons on so many different levels. I thought it was beautiful because, just on the surface,

it was beautiful to see two families coming together from different walks of life.

It was American and it was British. It was black and it was white. It was beautiful to see these cultures coming together.

To hear an African-American choir singing that music in front of The Royal Family, we've watched the royal weddings before. We've never heard that

kind of music in that space and it was beautiful. It added a life to the atmosphere that you've never experienced before.

To have a black pastor brought an essence that you hadn't experienced before. I saw David Beckham's face during one of the sermons, you could

see he was enjoying it, like, damn, I didn't expect this.

And I think that's what black people have brought to every single space that they even habited all the time, is a flavor that is oftentimes

missing.

And I think what's been beautiful is seeing how people have embraced that. People loved it. And that's what it's supposed to be. It's not supposed

to be a good or bad. It's just supposed to be enjoy it because that's what diversity brings.

AMANPOUR: They did. And I wonder you were struck. I was struck by actually how well the black culture fitted in with the white culture, the

church culture fitting in with the royalty. It actually worked.

NOAH: Yes.

AMANPOUR: It showed how diversity works.

NOAH: Yes. But that's the thing. I don't know what people sometimes think. I don't know if they think that they'll invite black people to

their wedding and all of a sudden, I don't know, there's going to be chaos, that people won't arrive on time. I don't know what they assume would

happen.

[14:10:05] But, if anything, people just show that it's beautiful to include different cultures into a single space because what you get from

that, I feel, is a beautiful, inclusive and unique experience.

AMANPOUR: Do you think we are anywhere near some kind of a game-changing moment or a tipping point moment? Not just the royal wedding and

everything you've just said, but "Black Panther", lot of black culture is suddenly - Donald Glover doing what he's doing and you just tweeted

recently a black excellence picture.

NOAH: Right.

AMANPOUR: With all the black co-stars from "Black Panther", et cetera, and other friends. What do you think is going on in that culture right now?

Or in our culture.

NOAH: I think, in many ways, it is what oftentimes happens when there is a rise in white nationalism, when there was a rise on the right, you will

find oftentimes that's when black art and artists of color generally persevere because I know, as a comedian, when there was something to punch

against, that's when you truly flex your muscles.

When you are a creative person and you are living in a world where the seeds of oppression are being planted, that's where you feel like the soil

is most fertile to explore yourself and what you stand for.

And that's not to say that blackness is defined by its oppression or by its fights against oppression, but rather that it has experienced that world

for so long that, in many ways, it knows how to thrive within those confines.

And so, part of it could be that. And part of it could just be time. It could just be the time that we're experiencing. You had a world where

Barack Obama was the first black president in America. You had a world where culture was steadily changing, where hip-hop music was slowly

becoming the most popular music in the world, surpassing rock.

This is something that, I think, is also gradual. So, we may be noticing it now, but you find a groundswell has been growing for such a long time.

AMANPOUR: What were you saying with the picture that you tweeted because, on the other side, of course, we still have cops killing black people, we

have shootings. Obviously, a lot of black people are victims of those. We have just so much racism as well.

NOAH: The hardest thing for people to understand at times is that blackness is not homogeneous. Black doesn't exist in one box. Black has

many different shades. Black has many different experiences.

Black as a signifier that has connected many people together because of what was imposed upon black, but the truth is black, in and of itself, has

many different angles to it, and that's what's beautiful about it.

And so, the black experience can contain joy. It can contain strife. It can contain struggle. It can contain excellence. It can contain all of

these things because that is nuance. That is what it's supposed to be.

And so, to be in a space life for myself, to be at the Met Gala and to notice year on year that I've been lucky enough to be invited, how the

group of people invited has slowly changed to see it go from a group that you can fit in one picture to now multiple pictures to now an ensemble that

has to stitch together separate images to work, that's a powerful moment for me.

AMANPOUR: And even more powerful is that you have been named one of "TIME Magazine's" 100 most important people. So, not only you were invited to

the Met Gala year after year, but a poor boy who was born in South Africa to a black mother and a white father, it was illegal - is the subject of

your book, or the title is called "Born a Crime". What does it feel suddenly to be the establishment?

NOAH: Well, it's interesting. I think suddenly I don't think is the word I would use because it takes so long that it may become apparent suddenly

to some people.

But when I look at how long it has taken me to do anything, I realize that nothing was suddenly. You know when I look at the journey that my family

went through and South Africa went through, nothing was suddenly. In fact, that journey is not even complete for many people in our country. And so,

in many ways, the first part is that it's not the suddenly.

The second part is I don't think we have ever or are in the place where we would be able to call ourselves the establishment. In many ways, you may

become part of or be allowed access to power or the establishment, but it would be naive to assume that we have become that.

And that is generally the journey of any group that has historically been oppressed or minorities. You find ways to gain access to spaces of power.

But to assume that you own that power is something that, I think, is naive and oftentimes a dangerous idea to possess.

AMANPOUR: A "Daily Show" alum Michelle Wolf found herself in the heart and the seat of power at the White House Correspondents' Dinner and she was

lambasted by the press afterwards. They didn't really like what she was saying and she said this thing about Sarah Sanders. We're going to play

it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[14:15:15] MICHELLE WOLF, COMEDIENNE: I actually really like Sarah. I think she's very resourceful. Like, she burns facts and then she uses that

ash to create a perfect smoky eye. Like, maybe she's born with it. Maybe it's lies. It's probably lies.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AMANPOUR: Do you think that was a lookist thing?

NOAH: I think that was one of those jokes that tricks you into exposing how you feel about the subject matter, which is one of the most dangerous

jokes in comedy because it's a joke that relies on you to define it in many ways.

And so, if you read the words of that joke and you don't know who Sarah Huckabee Sanders is, all the joke is saying is somebody knows how to turn

facts into lies and applies them as makeup. And that can be used as a description.

AMANPOUR: I actually thought it was really unfair, the criticism that she got, because I read the whole thing.

NOAH: Right.

AMANPOUR: I saw interviews of her. But I was there when Stephen Colbert did his famous -

NOAH: Right.

AMANPOUR: In 2006. And again, the people in the room had no idea how to laugh for themselves. I mean, what does that tell you?

NOAH: Here's the thing with comedy that's different and difficult. The White House Correspondents' Association is an interesting room, in that, in

many ways, in my opinion, it has become too close to the people that it covers.

So, sometimes, you blur the lines. I actually think it's good that Donald Trump doesn't attend because I don't think it's supposed to be that type of

event. I think it's strange for the press to become chummy with the people that they're reporting on. I think it's strange for people to build

relationships.

As a journalist, you know you don't require access to do your job. In fact -

AMANPOUR: It's very dangerous actually.

NOAH: In fact, if anything, access is the reason you end up going and fighting a war in Iraq that doesn't need to be fought because there are

weapons that don't actually exist. Access is a double-edged sword.

And so, what people and journalists oftentimes need to be careful of, in my opinion, is the fact that you can become friends with the people you're

supposed to be monitoring. You become friends as opposed to being the fourth estate.

And so, when these people are your friends, you may become offended when people make jokes about them. But were they just subjects that you were

reporting on, you wouldn't feel a certain way about it, I think.

AMANPOUR: Would you ever do it?

NOAH: I don't think I would do it because I don't understand really what the event is meant to be. And if the event is going to throw a comedian

under the bus after the comedian has done what a comedian is going to do, then I don't think that's the space for a comedian to be in.

AMANPOUR: Lupita Nyong'o who wrote your profile for "TIME Magazine" wrote about "Born a Crime", the title of your book, and about that incredible

story when your mum actually throws you out of the car.

NOAH: Yes.

AMANPOUR: Tell us. I mean, it is a crazy story, but, in a way, it sort of shaped you.

NOAH: It did in many ways. But what was crazy for me wasn't the fact that my mother threw me out of a moving vehicle. What was crazy was that that

wasn't a story that would have first jumped to my head when telling you any of the stories that came from my life.

My mother is an amazing, beautiful, powerful woman, who grew up in a society that, in many ways, tried to oppress everyone that was her and that

was like her.

And so, for me, that story is just one example of a young boy living in a world where his mother would do anything to protect her child. And the

thing she did on this day was throw me out of a moving taxi because the driver of the taxi was threatening to kill her and, I guess, by proxy

myself.

So, yes, I love that Lupita wrote about it because that was something she connected with in the story just as a woman, as a woman fighting a world

that was trying to tell her her place. And, I guess, that was one of the stories that is the reason Lupita Nyong'o signed up to make the movie that

would be of my book, "Born a Crime". So -

AMANPOUR: She's going to be your mum.

NOAH: She's going to be playing my mum, which is really exciting.

AMANPOUR: All right. Trevor Noah, thank you so much indeed.

NOAH: Thank you so much. Great to see you.

AMANPOUR: That was lovely. Thank you. After our conversation, Noah went on stage for his standup and he had more to say about us and the royal

wedding.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NOAH: Here's the thing. This is like one of those things where I understand, like they want to talk about it because you're not used to

having like a black wedding, right?

And so, like everyone today, I had like CNN contacted me. And they're like, "Trevor, would you mind speaking about the wedding and rarely all the

black performers? There was a black cellist and there was a black choir and a black pastor! How do you feel? Black? I don't know how I'm supposed

to feel.

What are you - how do you respond to that question? How do you feel about - I don't know how I feel. It's a wedding! I don't know. What do you want

me to say? That's a normal wedding.

I wasn't watching that wedding being like, whoa, that's black! So much black men. Another one! It's a wedding. What do you want me to say? It's

people.

And also, I feel like people go too far. Like, you know, that's when you realize that there's enough - there's not enough like diversity in your

world. Is if you think that that made it a black wedding.

Let me tell you something. A black cellist has canceled itself out! If you have a black person playing the cello, it's safe to say, that you've

canceled out the blackness of that event.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AMANPOUR: Oh, we didn't mind being the butt of his jokes. Of course, humor is often the best antidote in a world grappling with immense

challenges.

For seven years, Syria has been at the forefront. Trying to shed light on the conflict are author Marwan Hisham and the award-winning illustrator

Molly Crabapple.

The pair met on Twitter in 2014 and their new book "Brothers of the Gun: A Memoir of the Syrian War" uses his words and her illustrations to sketch

out the lives of Marwan and his two friends during the conflict.

They joined me recently to talk about their extraordinary graphic novel. Molly and Marwan, welcome to the program. Describe for me, both of you, in

your own words, the graphic design of the cover. It's one of Marwan's friends, right? It's playing a Kalashnikov like a violin.

MOLLY CRABAPPLE, AUTHOR, "BROTHERS OF THE GUN": It's a portrait of Tareq, who was a literature student, who became a rebel after his brother died

while fighting the regime.

And this was actually a self-portrait that Tareq shot of himself. And I think the reason that image resonates so strongly with people is it shows

someone who is a fighter, whose entire world is war and death, who's still trying to cling on to this one moment of beauty.

AMANPOUR: What sort of - what made you write this book as a memoir, as a graphic novel, so to speak?

MARWAN HISHAM, AUTHOR, "BROTHERS OF THE GUN": I lived in Iraq under three different rulers, starting with the regime and then the rebels and then

ISIS.

And I began as protester with my friends who then joined the rebels. So, I wanted to show life there and how war impact people's lives basically.

AMANPOUR: So, there's another illustration, which is again very graphic, very illustrative of what was going on. And I'll just read a little bit of

it while we put it up. It's of a crucified body on the clock tower in the heart of Raqqa.

And 40 days into its reign, you write, ISIS shot a man on accusations of burglary and murder, then hung his crucified body against the base of

Raqqa's clock tower. Tell me about what was going through your mind, what you were trying to show there?

CRABAPPLE: When I drew this image, I looked a lot at citizen videos that had been taken surreptitiously of this execution. And the thing to me that

stood out wasn't just the brutality of what was being done to this man.

It was that everyone around him was taking photos on their phones. And, to me, this image represents both the brutality of ISIS, but also the ways

that people were documenting it.

AMANPOUR: But, Marwan, there were children there as well yelling at the crucifying figure. And I just wonder, if you can tell me, you did have

firsthand close-up experience with ISIS because you were working in a cafe there, right, and they were your customers?

HISHAM: When I had the opportunity to work in that cafe, I took it simply because I wanted to - I wanted this kind of interaction with them to

understand and see why are they basically those kind of monsters who do all of these horrible things.

The only way you can do the right thing in their eyes is basically join them. They feel they are living in this kind of - they're doing something

really meaningful, really great that's going to build the future of the whole Muslim world.

AMANPOUR: And, Molly, again, you were tasked with realizing this experience, with drawing it, so that eventually the world could see what

was happening there.

Describe for me the sort of women. I mean, we see women that you've drawn in Raqqa with full chador, the full covering. But that was new to Raqqa,

wasn't it? I mean, women generally weren't forced to do that before ISIS.

CRABAPPLE: The wearing of a black abaya and full face veil was completely foreign to Raqqa. It was an imposition that ISIS forced on women there.

When I was drawing scenes of life under ISIS, I didn't just focus on the women all in black - that's a very common image - but also other aspects of

the physical appearance of the city.

For instance, ISIS regards photos on walls to be idolatry. And so, I drew a picture of a clothing store where every single man's face was blocked out

because of ISIS' rules.

AMANPOUR: Do you ever see any - either of you, any chance that this war is going to end anytime soon or is it just going to keep going or do you think

that Bashar Assad along with Russia and Iran have won yet?

HISHAM: So, I don't think Bashar al-Assad will - I think he will stay, but he will not be able to control the rest of the country. If we had

political solution - and we might not have this political solution, so the country will stay in name only one country, but we'll have political and

military entities lasting for perhaps decades.

AMANPOUR: A little bit like Iraq, a very unstable route to the future.

So, Marwan Hisham, Molly Crabapple, thank you so much for joining us.

CRABAPPLE: Thank you for having us.

HISHAM: Thank you for having us.

AMANPOUR: That's it for our program tonight. And remember, you can always listen to our podcast, see us online at Amanpour.com and follow me on

Facebook and Twitter. Thanks for watching. And goodbye from London.

END