Trevor Noah handpicks the funniest 13 SA comedians
A big break is on the cards for a list of up-and-coming South African comics.
Trevor Noah. Picture: Supplied
Trevor Noah Presents NationWild, a 13-part comedy showcase of South Africa’s brightest comedians, is on Showmax, marking comedian and TV personality Trevor Noah’s exciting return to Mzansi.
“I’m really excited for Mzansi audiences to discover their new favourite comedians,” says Noah.
Considering that top African comedians like David Kibuuka and Loyiso Madinga have already appeared on Noah’s American TV programme The Daily Show, anything is possible with the 13 comics Noah has picked.
The line-up includes 2018 Comics’ Choice next-level winner Phil de Lange and Best Newcomer Tsitsi Chiumya. Other nominees are Bongani Dube, Eric Jansen, Gilli Apter, and Lindy Johnson.
From the 2017 Comics’ Choice awards, best intermediate nominees Noko Moswete and Mo Mothebe were also added, as well as the 2016 Comics’ Choice breakthrough comic award-winner Virgil Prins, aka Prins. Rising stars Gavin Kelly, Keenan Cerff, Kraai du Toit and Mbu Msongwela are also given a chance.
“This is the moment that could make or break my career. This is my opportunity, Joburg comedian Jansen says. “It still doesn’t feel real. Me? Really? The kid from Reiger Park?”
Nominee Kelly from Pretoria says: “When I got the call, I thought it was fake news.”
Kelly, who also writes for The Bantu Hour, added: “I still think Leon Schuster is going to pop-up somewhere and say you’ve been schucksed.”
Similarly, Mbu Msongelwa, a comic from Mdantsane township outside East London in Eastern Cape didn’t believe the news.
“It came out on the first of April, so you have to wonder.”
Pretoria-based comedian Kraai du Toit was the last man to be announced, so his problem was getting other people to believe he had been selected.
“There was a guy called TBC on the first list, so people didn’t believe me because my name wasn’t on that line-up,” says Kraai. “Now I’m thinking of changing my name to TBC.”
Each episode of Trevor Noah Presents NationWild features an introductory set by Noah as host, an interview with the featured comedian about their story, followed
by the comedian’s set.
Streaming on Showmax is also getting some comedians excited. Bongani Dube from Venda in Limpopo he is hoping Barbara, a girl from his school days, will be streaming his set.
“I was tiny and super skinny at school,” says Dube. “I’d get bullied by girls. There was this one girl, Barbara. If I find her, I’d hug her and say: ‘Barbara, you made me a better comic.’She pushed me into finding a way not to fight back, because you don’t want to hit a woman, so I had to find a way to strike her back with words.”
It’s not always simple convincing parents that being a comedian is a viable career choice. In the case of Lavender Hill, Cape Town, comic Cerff’s case, his mother walked out of his first comedy set, though she left him money for a taxi.
Msongwela speaks for many of the comics when he says: “I’m looking forward to my mum seeing me on TV, being introduced on stage by Trevor Noah. The idea is to give her some perspective on the career I can have, so she can see this as an actual career.”
Cerff says: “I want to give the people of Lavender Hill hope. In Lavender Hill, if there is someone who has talent, or wants to study, they often do not have money and you have this society that pulls people down, that tells you that you can’t do this, that tells you, ‘why don’t you just go pack at Checkers?’
“I’m the shy, soft, quiet child and now I’m about to do this. So I just want people to know that whatever they want to do, they can do it. As long as they keep pushing and believing, they can achieve whatever they want.
“They don’t have to follow that gangster or this person or that person; they can be themselves.” That, ultimately, seems to be the key lesson that all the comics have learnt in their career so far:
they are funniest when they are most true to themselves.”
As Cerff puts it, the best advice he ever got from a comedian was to stop trying to be funny and to rather just be himself on stage and tell people his stories and where he’s from.
Because in South Africa, the truth is always the best punchline and funnier than fiction.