Johannesburg – On Sunday 24 local comedians took to the stage at the Savanna Newcomer Showcase in Johannesburg with the hopes of impressing the audience and their peers, and ultimately walking away with the Newcomer of the Year trophy at the 2019 Savanna Comics Choice Awards.
The process was simple – the host for the night, Tsitsi Chiumya, selected a comedian at random by choosing a name from a bowl. Each performer was then afforded 5 minutes to attempt to get the audience chuckling.
Speaking to The Juice, comedian Khaya Mdaka says his game plan was just to go out there and have fun. It paid off as the young star was one of only a few of the comics on the night to receive a standing ovation.
"They said I got a standing ovation. I didn't see that. All I wanted to do is enjoy myself. Even if I don't get nominated (for Newcomer of the Year). Maybe I don't get to win, but at least I enjoyed myself, and people enjoyed themselves."
When it comes to prepping his material, Khaya says it's all about being relatable and relevant. "It's about doing material that everyone is going to relate to, and that won't offend anyone. And also try by all means to be as relevant as possible."
Ian Young, another performer on the night, agreed that remaining relevant is vital. "When you get better at comedy, your material has to be current. So you'll get a good joke, but you can't stick with that, you have to come up with fresh ones."
As for what it was like waiting backstage for his name to be called, Ian says his nerves were shot. "I was so nervous backstage because I was like, I don't know what the people are going to laugh at. I had one new joke. I was trying to decide if I should put it in or not, and I just decided, let me risk it." A good decision on his part as the audience reacted positively to his set.
One of only three females performing at the showcase, Leah Jazz told us the waiting was the toughest part for her as well. "I think the nerves sort of peaked for everybody back there, but once you realised what was going to happen, you let go and let it happen. Being on stage was just amazing and so much fun."
With comedy being a male-dominated profession, Leah says in the next few years she would like to see more women in the industry. "I've hosted workshops for women to get more people to join the scene. But it's hard, you have to really love it and really enjoy it."
Speaking about some of the challenges she's faced as a female comedian, she added: "I think it's just that you feel that you don't get taken as seriously as other people because you're a woman. But at the same time, I think that there's a lot of room for women in comedy at the moment."
Her advice to people who would love to give comedy a try is simple – just do it. "Don't be sacred. Or be scared and do it anyway."