Loyiso Gola: Going back to his roots

2013-11-10 14:00

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Comedian Loyiso Gola grew up in a small brick home just down the road from where Amy Biehl was stabbed and stoned to death in the Cape Town township of Gugulethu.

In fact, he remembers walking past the American student’s cordoned-off murder scene at the Caltex garage on Steve Biko Drive on that fateful day of August 25 1993. He was 10 years old and on his way to school.

“I was walking and saw the police had cordoned off the place. But at the time, people got killed all the time so I didn’t pay much attention,” he says.

Gola’s formative years weren’t a laughing matter, but today he is having a suit tailored for the International Emmy Awards ceremony in New York after being nominated in the comedy category.

Soon after his satirical TV show, Late Nite News with Loyiso Gola, was nominated, he tweeted: “From Gugulethu to the Emmys #life.”

The 30-year-old funnyman now lives in Killarney, north of Joburg. Cuthu, Gola’s girlfriend of five years and a correspondence student at the London School of Economics, will be on his arm at the plush Emmys ceremony on November 25.

He didn’t want to reveal Cuthu’s surname – though he did say it’s not Gupta.

Last Thursday, Gola folded his 1.98m frame into the back of a hatchback car for a tour of his roots.

He was in Cape Town to promote his new stand-up comedy show, Catch Gola Live, which runs at the city’s Baxter Theatre from November 19 to 23.

“I mean I do have some suits, but I need a new one for the Emmys. I will see to that back in Joburg tomorrow [last Friday],” he said, speaking from the car’s back seat.

Gola pointed out the small brick house where he was raised by his mother, who worked at a bank in the city, and his father, who was employed by the SA Council of Churches.

“It was wild. I remember in the 1980s seeing a guy getting stabbed right over there,” he said, pointing up the road.

Neighbour Eunice Ginyana, a retired domestic worker, rushed out of her house and greeted him warmly: “I remember this boy and now I see him on TV.”

Gola’s parents have since separated. His father now lives in East London, Eastern Cape, and his mother in the Cape Town suburb of Plumstead.

Driving away from his childhood home, he said it was emotional for him to be back in Gugulethu.

The comedian’s face grew impassive, as if he had retreated into his own head.

Gola is known to be a private person, prone to shunning the limelight aspect of being a professional comedian.

“This is new,” he said, gazing out the window at the Gugulethu Mall, where the Gugulethu Wine Festival was hosted earlier this year.

“There was much more veld here back in the day. I mean, just over there was an initiation school,” he said, pointing at a bright sprawl of brick homes and shacks.

He recalled attending services at the face-brick Methodist Church on Steve Biko Drive, and walking to a local township library to devour Tintin and Asterix books as a teenager.

Gola dismissed the popular watering hole Mzoli’s Place as “too hectic” for lunch, saying he would prefer to visit his old school, Surrey Estate Primary.

At the school, mayhem erupted after Gola greeted pupils over the intercom system.

“I hear you are all naughty and I’m coming with a sjambok,” he joked over the sound system.

The school’s principal, Imtiaz Adams, accompanied Gola to classrooms, where he told pupils not to do drugs and to work hard – because it will get them places, like it did him.

The comedian grew animated while engaging with pupils, pulling faces and laughing. He posed for pictures and signed pieces of paper offered up to him by eager little hands.

“Jirre, he’s vrek tall like a flippin’ skyscraper!” screeched one little boy.

During a meeting in the principal’s office afterwards, Gola declined an offer of Brussels sprouts from the school’s garden. He said: “No man, I like my meat.”

The school’s teachers laughed, saying that Gola was a “naughty one” when he was younger.

But he worked relentlessly to conquer the fickle world of comedy and it has paid off.

In a recent interview, he thanked President Jacob Zuma and Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema for providing ample material for his Catch Gola Live show.

“To think that Zuma doesn’t even drink ... so all the crazy sh*t he gets up to, he does it completely sober. Just imagine if he started drinking,” he said.

The comedian has gigs lined up in New York, London and in Montreux in Switzerland after the International Emmy Awards ceremony.

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