Gronden van Verlening

Your Majesty, Your Royal Highness, Your Excellencies, esteemed guests, 

The founding act of the Praemium Erasmianum Foundation reads as follows: 

“Within the context of the cultural traditions of Europe in general and the ideas of Erasmus in particular, the aim of the Foundation is to enhance the position of the humanities, the social sciences and the arts. The emphasis lies on tolerance, cultural diversity and non-dogmatic, critical thinking.” 

The Erasmus Prize is an oeuvre prize, awarded annually to a person or institution that has made an exceptional contribution to one these fields. 

The award consists of a cash prize and adornments designed by Bruno Ninaber van Eyben. It features the following text in Erasmus’s handwriting that was written exactly 500 years ago: 

“Diverse are the gifts of men of genius and many are the different kinds of ages. Let each one reveal the scope of his competence and let no one be envious of another, who in keeping with his own ability and style tries to make a useful contribution to the education of all.”

The Board of the Erasmus Prize Foundation has awarded the Erasmus Prize 2023 to South African comedian Trevor Noah on the following grounds:

The theme of this year’s prize has been named after Erasmus’s most famous book, ‘In Praise of Folly’, which is filled with humour, social criticism and political satire. In it, humour is used to impart wisdom. Silliness is weaponised to reveal truths about human nature. 

Noah’s work embodies all of this. With his sharp-minded, mocking yet inclusive political comedy, Noah, in the eyes of the jury, upholds the ‘Erasmian Spirit.’

Confronted by institutionalised racism from a young age, without becoming cynical, Noah exposes its absurdities, and combats these struggles with the liberating power of laughter. In doing so he inspired a whole generation of young comedians to ‘speak truth to power’, enlivening a young democracy.

His huge body of work is filled with grit, empathy and great intelligence. These are all qualities that the millions who know him as a stand-up comedian with a global reach, have come to love.

As the host of the Daily Show, with his astute reflections on inconvenient truths, he garnered a young, diverse and global audience and, in the process, infused a highly polarized media landscape with a breath of fresh air. 

Lastly, as his Majesty has mentioned, only once before in its 65-year history has a humourist won the Erasmus Prize: The following quote is famously attributed to Charlie Chaplin “The function of comedy is to sharpen our sensitivity to the perversions of justice within the society in which we live,” and that observation applies wholly and gloriously to Trevor Noah and his work.