Johannesburg - Comedian Tumi Morake could not have asked for better news – following an incident in which she and her family were robbed at gunpoint – than being told she had been chosen among 32 comedians from around the world to feature in a series of Netflix comedy specials at the Just for Laughs Comedy Festival in Montreal, Canada.
“When the news came, I was at home with my husband after we had just been robbed at gunpoint the day before,” said Morake.
“You know, we were still trying to deal with the shock when I got the news. I was making tea before heading to bed and I put the phone down and told him the news. He got super excited for me.
“I was wondering why I wasn’t as excited, but it really was me dealing with the news and trying to process it. Once it hit me, I was buzzing that whole week and just wanting to share the news,” Morake told City Press, giggling excitedly.
She said it was a mission to keep the news secret as she had known about it for a month before it broke.
The comedy specials will be part of an as yet unnamed 2019 Netflix stand-up series, featuring 47 comedians from 13 regions around the world. While 32 comics will record their gigs in Canada, the rest of them will tape theirs elsewhere.
This makes Morake the first African female comic to have a slot on the US-owned TV streaming platform.
She will be sharing the stage with three other South African comedians: Riaad Moosa, Loyiso Gola and Loyiso Madinga.
The format of the series is as follows: Each comedian will perform a half-hour stand-up special. Most of these will be recorded at the upcoming Just for Laughs festival – the largest international comedy festival in the world – while the others will be taped in countries as far afield as Brazil, Mexico, India, Germany and The Netherlands.
“What’s great about the Netflix special and the festival in Montreal is how audiences will get 32 voices from around the world – and I get to be one of the voices representing a corner of Africa and [get the opportunity] to give them a perspective they have not heard.”
To prepare, she will be speaking to comedians who have performed there.
“I will watch previous shows and speak to teams working at the festival. I am looking for longevity and am preparing work that will best represent where I am.”
She described her selection as being “not just a personal achievement, but a moment for the industry and the continent”.
“It will echo everywhere that Africa is a force to be reckoned with, and we are becoming so daily … The world has acknowledged that our comedy is alive and well, and we have the likes of Trevor Noah as a clear reference to the talent that exists on our continent.”
Morake said she enjoyed comedy as it affirmed the idea that she didn’t have to be apologetic. “Comedy is the one space where I don’t have to apologise for my voice.”
She is not just a comedian but a wife, mother, TV personality and producer as well. She sees her different roles as “feeding into each other”.
“Juggling isn’t that difficult, but it can get a bit tricky because I am getting old. My kids are also demanding of my time and me.”
Her advice to young and aspiring comedians?
“Believe in why you’re doing what you are doing and follow the demands of your career to see the fruits of what you do. If you want to do comedy to make money out of it, then treat it like the business that it is.
“I didn’t think, after receiving my qualifications at Wits University, that I would be where I am today, but one day I decided to go for it. I watched standup shows and would go to a club to perform and not get paid ... But look at me now.”