07 August 2012 | SIBUSISO MKWANAZI
Comedienne Tumi Morake starts off by savouring a piece of cake before the interview formally commences and notes that in stand-up comedy – unlike in acting – her diet does not affect the number of gigs she gets booked for.
“I used to act, until I realised that I could throw a stone and hit 100 thinner and prettier actresses than me. That is when I knew I had to find an avenue that suited who I am, and that was comedy, and more specifically stand-up,” she says.
Morake’s new one-woman show HERStory sees her taking the audience on a journey that took her from “sassy, single and racially curious to being married, sober and insane”.
When she started doing stand-up consistently in 2006, how did she know that she was funny?
“I had a few hints along the way in my life that I was destined to be where I have landed up,” she says.
“Way back in school I used to be the butt of jokes until I decided to use humour to defend myself. Then, in my tertiary studies at Wits I received the most positive responses from my more comical roles. But now, after more than six years of doing this, it is easy to gauge how funny I am or not: the number of times I ‘die’ on stage. The less I ‘die’, the better I am at making people laugh.”
Morake admits that she is more likely to fail when she is trying out new material for the first time.
“People can smell insecurity and because I know I am trying a line for the first time, I am not always as confident as I am with my other, more established material.
“There have been times when I have done a corporate gig and everyone else is cracking up, but if the CEO is not laughing, then I know I am in trouble,” she chuckles.
“And bizarrely, if the CEO is laughing and no one else is, it seems to be fine.
“Very recently, I was the MC at a corporate gig and afterwards, one of the employees came up to me and said that was the funniest event he had attended and asked me if I had considered being a comedienne?”
With the success that Morake has enjoyed over the last six years, is there anything else other than people not always recognising her that keeps her feet firmly on the ground?
“Being a mother, which reminds me of how expensive nappies are, so people should rush out and buy tickets to HERStory so I can afford to change my child’s nappy more regularly!” she smiles.
“The show lets people know the type of person I am and what grounds me. Like everyone else, I also read newspapers and magazines while on the loo – even though I think white people take it too far by having a whole stack of reading material in there – and like all ladies, I like being complimented.”
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