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Grammy Host Trevor Noah on Getting Props From Jay-Z, Trying Not to Mess Up in Front of Beyonce, and More

Presumably, most people don’t do anything four times voluntarily unless they enjoy it, and Trevor Noah confirms that he does, indeed, enjoy hosting the Grammys. Considering that his first year was the show’s imaginatively socially distanced 2021 Covid edition — 2021 was held as a small yet star-studded outdoor gathering — and the following one was only slightly more “normal,” this is just his second conventional Grammys.

However, conventional is a pretty inaccurate word for a show that includes performances from top nominee SZA, Joni Mitchell — making her Grammys performance debut — as well as U2 (in a remote appearance from Las Vegas’ Sphere), Billy Joel, Dua Lipa, Olivia Rodrigo, Luke Combs, Travis Scott and Burna Boy, with more to be announced. Despite the enormous amount of pressure the job entails, as he says below, Noah — seen above accepting his own award, a Primetime Emmy for his work on “The Daily Show” earlier this month — is excited and grateful to have the opportunity to host again. While he stepped down from “The Daily Show” in 2022, he’s got plenty in play: He launched his fourth comedy special on Netflix last month, “”Where Was I,” and his weekly podcast, “What Now With Trevor Noah,” drops every Thursday.

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The Grammys air on CBS from L.A.’s Crypto.com Arena on Feb. 4, starting at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT.

Are you excited to be doing the this again?

I am indeed, I’m equal parts excited and nervous. I always wonder why I say yes to this thing, and then if it goes well — which it has, thankfully — I’m always grateful that I did. But the nerves never go away. There are only two things you can do: do it well, or completely mess it up. That’s not a great life to be living! I don’t know why I do this myself.

What are the most difficult and most nerve-wracking things about it — apart from speaking to a dozen million people on live television.

I know this sounds like a weird thing to say, but you don’t want to disappoint the artists that you love. Like, I cannot imagine what it would be like to tell a joke and turn and see Beyonce going [shakes his head and scowls]. Because that would mean whenever I listened to Beyonce’s music, I would forever have that image in my head. If you don’t do well for a live audience, OK, you’re gonna bounce back; if you don’t do well for a home audience, OK, some people are going to comment online. But to have the look of disappointment come from an icon or somebody that you really love — I do not wish for that experience. So I work twice as hard.

At the start of the show, what is going through your mind when you’re walking up to the podium?

Wow, let me think … If I think of the sequence, I’m going, “Does everything work? Does my microphone work? Does the earpiece work? OK, get ready for the worst.” Then I think, “Don’t trip.” You avoid wearing new shoes, because they’re kind of slick on the [soles].

I was actually laughing with Anthony Anderson about this, because if you watch him at the Emmys, when he walks toward the front of the stage, he’s looking down, like, really intentionally. And as a fellow host of an awards show, I knew he was looking to make sure his step down is going to land exactly where it needs to — because you do not want to trip. I don’t know if you can come back from falling down at the beginning of a show.

What are your favorite personal memories?

Backstage [last year], after the 50 years of hip-hop performance, talking with Busta Rhymes backstage and we started rapping together. It was just an off the cuff, fun, crazy moment that was so special to me. And at the first Grammys I did, during Covid, Jay-Z walked past and was like, “Hey, man, you’ve been doing a good job.” I remember being like, “Damn, Jay-Z just told me I’m doing a good job!” Those moments really, really stand out because of how special and unique they were.

As an artist, do you feel sympathy with what musicians and other creators are facing with AI? Do you plan to address in the show?

Oh yeah, I completely understand where musicians are coming from. I think we’re on the precipice of something that will completely redefine how we consider ownership, publishing, authenticity, reproduction, all those things. I’m definitely, definitely going to be commenting on that and joking about it during the night.

So you’re not going to make that point by having an AI Trevor Noah doing the show while you’re sitting home watching?

(Laughter) Luckily, I don’t think we’re there yet — that’s the one piece of good news I can bring you from the world of AI. But we humans genuinely like speaking to each other and connecting with each other. And maybe at some point, and it’s not a foregone conclusion, this interview we’re doing won’t even be with us — and you won’t know that it’s not with me and I won’t know that it’s not with you, and maybe our AIs will do this full thing together and we’ll still get the same result. But until then, I think as humans, we enjoy this connection, we enjoy the glint that we see in another human’s eye, we like knowing there’s a shared electricity and a resonance between us. So for the time being, I’m going to enjoy it.

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