The Dark Side of Comedy

If there’s one area of Mzansi’s entertainment industry that has hit a serious boom in recent years, it’s stand-up comedy. But it’s still not enough for a stand-up comedian to be a stand-up comedian. We caught up with one of the stars of Showmax’s Funny People, up and coming, multitalented performer Tyson Ngubeni to find out what it takes to make it in this ultra-competitive industry.

Tyson! Dude, thanks for agreeing to be this month’s iKasi Original? For those who haven’t been lucky enough to witness your side splitting work – can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I burst into characters on stage and screen. I’m the last and quietest of four children and I started out by imitating everyone. Fast forward through a marching band high school experience, learning and speaking Dutch for a call centre (my first ever job) and I was lucky to save up money to study drama and journalism at Rhodes.

My complexion lies somewhere between Wesley Snipes and eternal darkness. In South Africa, it gets awkward when people assume I don’t belong. I used these experiences in my debut solo comedy show The Dark Ages, throwing jabs at xenophobia while asking questions of our unpredictable country.

I’m mad about South African art and am always up for a fiery debate about my favourite football teams. I have a tendency to practice the voices of people I meet. I’m an advocate against avocado slander.      

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We know that you’re making waves in the SA entertainment scene. Give us some insight into what do you do and why do you do it?

I’m an actor, writer and stand-up comic. Though I started out in theatre, my work now includes commercials, voice overs and I sometimes run workshops training people in improvisation.

Stories are powerful and I’ve seen how beautiful it is to be vulnerable enough to share your truth and have people respond to and connect with it.

What keeps you going and motivates you to keep creating?

Once the theatre lights go up, once the MC calls your name in that comedy gig, it’s really all on you to bring your A-game. Ending off each performance on a good note is always the goal. I try to work with the end in mind: how good would I want that to be?

Theatre. Film. Stand-up comedy. These seem like high pressure environments. What challenges do you face?

Being completely comfortable with the failures that are a part of the journey. In high school, I was part of a fiercely competitive marching band that was successful but made me very afraid of failure. The older I get, the more I’ve embraced some stumbles as valuable parts of the process to becoming a much better artist and all-round person.

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And do you have any advice for young people in your field?

Embrace any opportunities to get training in your chosen craft. Every moment you put into improving yourself are meaningful: the process is the product.
 

We can tell that you’re a driven individual. Tell us, what are your goals?

I’d like to train as many people as possible in improvisation. I’ve been fortunate to run a series of workshops in different cities over the past few years. It’s such a phenomenal form and one of the most enjoyable, open ways for first-timers to dabble in theatre in a non-intimidating space.

Tyson, we can’t wait to see what the future holds for you. One final question before we let you get back to your hustle… What is an iKasi Original to you?

iKasi Original is someone who trusts their voice and expresses it honestly. It’s someone confident in their contribution to their field and dedicated towards getting better.

Catch up with Tyson on these channels: