“We need to get better at paying each other what we deserve” – Trevor Noah

On Thursday, local comedian Trevor Noah spoke about how South Africa needs to value its artists more

Speaking at a press conference in Johannesburg, Trevor Noah focused on what he believes is a serious issue in South Africa – the fact that many artists are underpaid.

“I was exploited when I was very new in the industry; I almost made no money doing what I love,” Noah said. “But I’m proud that today I get to be in a place where I go: ‘If you work with me, you’re going to feel the difference in your life as a South African comedian,'” he said.

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“A lot of the time in South Africa we take for granted how easy it’s been to underpay people,” he added. “We read about the Ray Phiris of South Africa who went bankrupt, and you go: ‘But these were legends?’

“You read stories about the Brenda Fassies and wonder: how did these people die without a penny in their pocket when we saw them selling out stadiums and we know about all the money they made? Then we come to realise over time that in South Africa, we’ve got very used to paying people way below what they should be getting paid.”

And this goes beyond just artists, Noah believes; it extends to others such as domestic workers and petrol attendants.

“In South Africa, we need to get better at paying each other what we deserve,” he said.

Responding to a question about why tickets to his show were so expensive, Noah explained the costs involved in putting on a production at the Ticketpro Dome, adding that South Africans need to stop thinking of international acts as being superior to local ones.

“As a South African and a performer, we have to value our own. I remember when I was touring with Julio Iglesias, which was probably over seven years ago – the prices that people were paying to see him then were really expensive, but people were like, ‘Yeah but, it’s Julio Iglesias.’

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“But then when do we pay for our own? And if we pay for our own, our own are more likely to stay here because they feel appreciated and they can create. We’ve got to build the industries here.”

The show is not just about him, Noah stressed, but also about ploughing back into the country and empowering people.

“The show I’m doing now… it’s not just Trevor Noah. I’m hiring South African production companies; I’m hiring South African camera crews; I’m hiring South African people that are going to be managing the venue; I’m hiring South African comedians. We’re making history together and I’m proud that people are willing to come and be a part of that.”