The feeling of being uncomfortable or in a new situation causes many people to act strange and laugh nervously. Some people might find your laughter inappropriate. A risky type of humor would be scatological humor, this humor refers to jokes based around poop. For example, in figure 1 above the cartoonist illustrates a fly at a restaurant ordering a “number 2”. Flys like things that smell and for a fly to be ordering poop at a restaurant is humorous because you would not expect a fly to be at a restaurant you would expect a fly to be surrounding trash or poop. This is an example of personification, a non-human object said to be doing a human action like the fly ordering food, however, this humor could be inappropriate and make people feel disgusted at the thought of flies eating poop.
In his memoir Born a Crime, Trevor Noah captivates his audience by speaking on growing up in the time of apartheid in South Africa using his unique and unusual humor. During the time of apartheid legal segregation was authorized by the government which lead to him being viewed differently based on his mixed complexion. Being born as a result of an illegal relationship between his black mother and white father, Noah details the struggles and challenges he faces throughout his memoir with humor and using the rhetorical devices of ethos, logos and pathos. While many might see his humor as offensive and stop reading his book, Noah’s unexpected humor has allowed him to connect to many readers in a positive way. Noah’s effective risk taking has made readers stay intrigued to his memoir.
Throughout the first couple of chapters Noah demonstrates the way he uses humor to speak on religion. For example in chapter one Trevor writes, “You could be a linebacker in the NFL, didn’t matter that pastor was taking you down”.(8) when talking about how the pastor would give a sort of exorcism to people who sinned. Noah uses humor to connect to the readers and create an image in their mind. Him bringing football which is such a controversial topic to talk about into his book, readers who are involved or fans of football could relate with what he is saying. However, readers may find this completely not related to the context in the chapter or some readers might just not have knowledge on football and could find this rather boring. If the reader doesn’t understand Noah’s humor it could keep them from finishing the book. Many readers could also find this offensive to talk about the pastor’s behavior and it could be seen like he’s mocking the him. Although many see his humor as refreshing and it makes them feel comfortable connecting to the audience’s emotions when talking about serious topics like religion.
However, Noah’s humor in his memoir could easily offend some readers. In chapter three Noah writes, “The bible was not written in English, but the bible came to South Africa in English so to us it’s in English. Which made my prayers the best prayers because English prayers get answered first. How do we know this? Look at white people” (40). This saying could offend a colored person because it implies god doesn’t listen to the prayers of colored people & takes white people into favoritism. Some readers could easily laugh this off or not give it too much attention, but I believe someone of color who has experienced someone prioritizing a white person over them might find this offensive because although god is believed to be a white man himself, why would god listen to English prayers or prayers coming from a white person over a person of color? That makes god out to be a kind of racist & many Christian readers could be bothered by that. If a reader feels offended or feels as if something said offended someone who they believe so passionately about it could hurt Noah’s audience & stop people from continuing to read his book. On the other hand, many readers enjoy his riskiness, for example when he uses scatological humor, in the same sentence where he talks about God. His intriguing risk taking can make readers excited to see what he says next.
Trevor Noah also writes with such realness and sincerity in his memoir, as well as using ethos in his writing, because of this his audience feels confident in what they are reading. Throughout his memoir he speaks about real life situations he has been in being an interracial child and uses great word choice to describe them. For example, in chapter six Trevor writes “You’d have to bend over, and he’d hit your ass with this flat rubber thing…. One day I was getting a hiding and I thought Man if only my mom hit me like this and I started laughing” (85). Noah demonstrates how credible he can be when he talks about his experiences by being honest and cussing. Cussing shows his audience, that he is comfortable and wants them to be able to relate to the book more. Some readers may find his word choice rather childlike or unnecessary. Although some may not like his word choice some readers might enjoy it & find it fun. In an interview between Trevor Noah and CBS news titled “Trevor Noah: Finding Humor in the darkest of times”. Trevor refers to himself as an outsider he then talks about apartheid. “It was blatant… you must remember apartheid was the best racism and this is not in a joking manner. People don’t realize how well thought out apartheid was”(Trevor Noah: Finding Humor). Trevor uses humor to lighten up serious situations like apartheid to make it easier to speak about. For him to say apartheid was the best racism is very risky and many might take offense.
Another way he has good use of word choice and humor while using ethos would be in chapter three,Pray. Trevor has to use the bathroom badly, but it was pouring outside, and he was stuck going to the bathroom on a newspaper on the kitchen floor he then explains, “It’s a powerful experiencing, shitting. There’s something magical about it, profound even…I think God made humans shit in the way we do because it brings us back down to earth and give us humility” (43). Noah’s words make it clear that he isn’t afraid of saying what he thinks. This may give readers what kind of comfort and make them less likely to doubt his feelings or the realness of his experiences. Some readers also might take offense or find his choice of words in this quote disrespectful to God by using his name and the word “shit” in the same sentence. Although some readers might take offense many readers appreciate his sincerity because it is risky and shows that Trevor is open with his personal experiences, making him more credible.
Trevor’s use of rhetorical devices such as logos ethos and pathos really convey his traumatic experiences and the feelings he had growing up being constantly discriminated. Trevor Noah’s use of humor is unique, and unusual and this catches many readers attention. However, Noah should acknowledge how some of his readers might take offense to his humor and that it could stop them from supporting him. Although some people may not support his courageous humor Noah’s humor lightens up the intensity of the serious situations in his life touching on his logical thinking, credibility and emotional appeal towards his audience.