Return to Transcripts main page


Trevor Noah Takes London by Storm; Meet the Star Cellist from the Royal Wedding. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired June 13, 2018 - 14:00:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Tonight, one of the world's most prominent satirist discusses his eternal optimism, the triumph of black creativity

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

performance at London's O2 Arena.

Plus, he is the 19-year old musical maestro who stole the show at the royal wedding of Harry and Meghan. My conversation with the chart-topping star

cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason.

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 a crime in apartheid

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

Now, as he puts it, he has broken into 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 so-called 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: No, 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


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 if 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.

AMANPOUR: You're absolutely right.

NOAH: 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 a lot has happened in this country and, I guess, around the world in

those two years.

NOAH: Right.


NOAH: Well, I mean, in many ways, for me, the U.K. 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 U.K., 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 U.K. 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.

[14:05:07] 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


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


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. 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've habited all the time, is a flavor that is oftentimes missing.

AMANPOUR: They did. And I wonder if 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.

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.

[14:10:05] 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 the 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 is 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, like 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.

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



[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.


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 agree. 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


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.

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


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.

We turn now to the performance of a lifetime, one that was watched by millions of people, and serenaded his way into the history books. The

musician, Sheku Kanneh-Mason, a 19-year-old British cellist whose breathtaking performance at the Royal Wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan

Markle wowed the whole world.

What is also extraordinary is that Sheku Kanneh-Mason juggled that performance with his college exams and a chart topping hit album on both

sides of the Atlantic.

He said it's been a crazy couple of weeks, so let's find out. Sheku Kanneh-Mason is with me right now and welcome to the program.


AMANPOUR: So, what has it been like? I mean, obviously, you were well on your way to success, but this Royal Wedding performance really propelled

you into the stratosphere.

KANNEH-MASON: Yes, I mean, performing - having the opportunity to perform at the Royal Wedding is something unlike anything I've experienced before,

and so I really just enjoyed the experience of that. And being able to perform to so many people is just - that's an amazing feeling and I really

enjoyed that.

[14:20:00] AMANPOUR: Did they choose the pieces or did you?

KANNEH-MASON: The first two pieces I played were pieces I have loved playing for a long time, and so I suggested them. And then the Ave Maria,

which is probably the most well-known of history (ph), was their suggestion.

AMANPOUR: But how did that happen? Did she actually call you up and say can you play for me?

KANNEH-MASON: Yes. I mean, obviously, not from (INAUDIBLE). But I didn't know I was going to be asked to perform at the wedding. I was just

expecting a very (INAUDIBLE) phone call. And so, it was a real honor to have been asked to.

AMANPOUR: Well, I'm going to ask you to play a little something because you have come with this unbelievable cello, which you just told me before

we went on, dates from 1610 which I actually can't believe that it still survived and that it's sitting on our floor in our studio.

But feel free. Pick it up. And play me whatever bit of classical music comes to your heart right now.

KANNEH-MASON: So, this is the iconic opening phrase of Elgar's Cello Concerto.


AMANPOUR: Just beautiful. Just that amount is beautiful. But I also noticed, Sheku, a complete change in your body language and you go from

soft spoken to super intense.

KANNEH-MASON: I mean, with a piece - particularly with the piece - it's impossible not to get into that world. And, I guess, when you work so

intensely on a piece of music every time you come back to it, it is just such an amazing feeling.

AMANPOUR: And you in your relatively young life have done this. You're all over the news right now. You're a college student and you've got hit

records. And you also, with your family, wowed Britain on "Britain's Got Talent".

KANNEH-MASON: That was just a very different experience and I always enjoy performing with my family and always enjoy performing to lots of people.

And so, that was a very exciting opportunity to be able to do that.

AMANPOUR: How many are there of you?

KANNEH-MASON: There are seven. They were only six playing in that, but we have another young sister.

AMANPOUR: And she plays now?

KANNEH-MASON: She plays the cello, yes.

AMANPOUR: One of your heroes, I think, is Bob Marley. And your rendition of "No Woman, No Cry", went viral, didn't it?

KANNEH-MASON: And Bob Marley has been someone who I have looked up probably for a long time, and so it was a great do a cello version of his.

AMANPOUR: Can you do that now?


[14:25:45] AMANPOUR: Just beautiful. Do you think you're perhaps helping, inspiring a new generation of young people to love classical, to love the


KANNEH-MASON: I think one of the most exciting things I ever see is when I play to the younger audience, who perhaps have never heard music like this

before, and they respond in the most kind of natural way and generally really love the music that they hear. And I think it's just giving young

people the opportunity to hear this music.

AMANPOUR: Well that's really great. Congratulations. Thank you so much for being here. Sheku Kanneh-Mason, really amazing.

KANNEH-MASON: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: And that's it for our program tonight. Remember, you can always listen to our podcast and see us online at and you can follow

me on Facebook and Twitter.

Thanks for watching. And goodbye from London.