Celebrations are in order! SA’s very own national treasure, Trevor Noah – comedian, author, political commentator, and former TV host, has become the first South African to be awarded the prestigious 2023 Erasmus Prize. And that’s not all! At 39 years old, Noah is also the youngest award recipient in the 65-year history of the prize.
The Erasmus Prize is awarded annually by the Praemium Erasmianum Foundation, with King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands as its patron. This Dutch prize recognizes individuals or organizations who have made significant contributions in the humanities, social sciences, and the arts. This year, the foundation chose Trevor Noah for his “inspired contribution to the theme ‘In Praise of Folly’”, which is named after Erasmus’s most famous book.
Erasmus’s book is filled with humor, social criticism, and political satire, and Noah has been recognized for his sharp-minded, mocking, yet inclusive political comedy that upholds the “Erasmian Spirit.” Noah is only the second humorist to be awarded this prize, with the first being Charlie Chaplin in 1965.
The Praemium Erasmianum Foundation was founded in 1958 by Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, and it awards the annual Erasmus Prize while organizing cultural and academic activities around the award ceremony. The Erasmus Prize comes with a prize of €150,000, which is nearly R3 million.
Dr. Shanti van Dam, the director of the Erasmus Prize Foundation, explained that the criteria for the award are excellence in the field, and it is considered a lifetime achievement award. Each year, the board chooses a different theme, informed by what theme in the humanities and arts is considered important at that moment.
Not only is Noah the first South African to receive this award, but he is also the second African to be recognized by this institution. The first was Moroccan author and sociologist Fatema Mernissi who was awarded the prize in 2004 for her work on “Religion and Modernity.”
Congratulations to Trevor Noah for this well-deserved honor! His contributions to the world of comedy and social commentary have made him an inspiration to people around the globe, and we can’t wait to see what he will do next.
Feature Image: Gilbert Flores / Variety via Getty Images