Trevor Noah: I Wish You Would 2022 Movie Review Poster Trailer Online
Of all the thoughts I had while watching Trevor Noah’s I Wish You Would, the most nagging one was: will this be possible in India? The question was not unfounded. I will tell you why. Noah’s new comedy special is pointedly funny, supremely hilarious. It is also an hour-long exhibition of the extent words, aided with humour, can travel when not censored, and an attestation of what it can achieve with that flight. The set occupies the sweet spot between scathing critique and lucid introspection, leaving no one, not even the speaker, unharmed.
Every comic has their own style. Ricky Gervais knows a joke has landed when the one listening takes offense. Hasan Minhaj orchestrates his set like a rousing performance. Of late, Aziz Ansari stand ups have evolved into a more self-reflexive exercise, needling the audience for both observation and admittance. Noah does none of these, especially in his latest special. What he does though is calibrate his performance so expertly that even when he flits from one topic to the other, his tone remains consistent and consistently funny.
In I Wish You Would, former The Daily Show host talks about a wide range of issues. He starts with learning German to impress his Swiss father, Queen Elizabeth II’s demise, the Covid crisis, Africa’s impressive handling of the virus and America’s failure at it. He weaves these observations with his own existential queries. “We were supposed to be a team,” Noah wonders. “Will Smith was supposed to be our hero,” he quips. Looking back at the pandemic, it is clear that none of these things happened. The health crisis segregated us more than ever and Smith (in)famously slapped comic Chris Rock at the Oscars in 2022, giving coronavirus the meme it deserved.
In many ways, the set is a lesson in being funny without being insensitive. At one point, he refers to Covid as an “a**hole genie that gave us everything we asked for”. Sure, employees wanted to stay back at home instead of going to work, new lovers wanted to spend all their time together, parents wanted to spend time with children. Look at any way you want, the pandemic did grant all of these wishes. What happened as a casualty was neither envisioned nor, not wished for by us.
Even then, the comic continued, Africa handled the health crisis better than most developed countries. We all witnessed former US and UK president(s) Donald Trump and Boris Johnson’s dismissal of the pandemic and the repercussions they suffered (they were both admitted in hospitals). Trevor goes on to do impeccable impersonations of both these politicians (he does a Trump better than Trump himself), arriving at a sadistic inference. It was innately funny to watch them come to their senses after suffering because it is only human to derive happiness from others’ sorrow. There is a German word for it: schadenfreude. And there is a reason for it: it makes others look better, smarter.
This is precisely why during Ebola, Americans made it look like it was the Africans’ fault. This is also why during Covid, we chose to fall apart rather than come together. But this cause and reason of schadenfreude comes together in a hilarious conclusion when Noah finds himself at the receiving end of it.
It is a masterclass in storytelling where the South African comic perfectly balances tone and humour, self deprecation and critique to conclude that when you laugh at others, you are a heartbeat away from being laughed at. To repeat what I had started out with. It is difficult to watch I Wish You Would and not think if such a set would be possible in India. During his hour-long performance, the comic goes on to imitate, ridicule one American President after another. His mimicry is not just on point but they are often better than the original. At one point, he observes that Barack Obama, whom he has favoured in the past, talks like his voice is buffering. I choked on my coffee.
Apart from being just damn funny, Noah also illustrates the possibility of what happens and can happen when comedy is not tied to power conventions. By all intent and purpose, I Wish You Would is an exhibition of free speech. Given how stilted the situation is in India, where comics run the risk of getting arrested for a joke they haven’t even cracked, schadenfreude is reserved as the reaction of the powerful. They become more smug when comedians get into trouble. But if there is any lesson here, it is this: schadenfreude might mean deriving deriving pleasure from other’s misfortune but misfortune spares no one. Neither Donald Trump nor Trevor Noah.