Writing What We Like: A New Generation Speaks
Edited by Yolisa Qunta
David Kau first popped on to the public stage doing a series of hilarious TV commercials for the Toyota Tazz. Before that, the comedian had been quietly honing his craft on stand-up stages around the country. He produces and stars in the showcase Blacks Only, currently in its 10th year.
I hoped I could use our friendship as leverage in persuading him to add one more thing to his busy schedule ... which didn’t work out as I’d expected. Firstly, persuading David to write took numerous phone calls, text messages, and some not-so-subtle tweets and emails.
In other words, I went into low-key stalker mode. He then claimed that he was not really a writer, that producing stand-up content wasn’t the same as writing. In the end, we compromised; I agreed on an interview.
After another telephone relay, I nailed down a time.
Midway through our interview came his question: ‘Why are you asking me these questions?’
Here are the results.
Yolisa: What is your most vivid memory of growing up in apartheid South Africa?
David: The first time I experienced tear gas. I was seven years old, and in Standard 1. That would be 1985. There were riots, and it was quite a distance between home and school, and there was no public transport available – buses and taxis were getting stoned and petrol-bombed. I was with older people I didn’t even really know. Along the way, they were looting local shops. At least they gave me a sip of their Coca-Cola.
Yolisa: Tell me about the biggest differences for you personally post-1994.
David: The biggest difference post-1994 is having the freedom to live – to live where you want to or can afford to, to work or study in the field that you want to be in, and to be with or marry the people you want to, regardless of race. Freedom to travel anywhere in the country, and in the world.
Yolisa: As a comedian, do you have any limits? Are there jokes you won’t do because they are too controversial?
David: The only jokes I won’t do are jokes about rape. Other than that, comedy has to do with timing, and it is a business. You pay me. I make you laugh, sometimes make fun of you. I’m not trying to be controversial, but if there’s something controversial about my jokes, then – Whoop! – there it is.
Yolisa: Do you get tired of people asking when PMS [The Pure Monate Show] is coming back?
David: No, I don’t get tired of it, but I do wish they understood and accepted that it isn’t. It’s been 11 years now, and there’s more to do in life, and in comedy, and in the world.
Yolisa: You have performed in plenty of other countries. How do you compare South Africans’ sense of humour to that of other nations?
David: South Africa has way more freedom – or, rather, the comedians have much more freedom – compared with other countries. Most comedians I have worked with, especially from the UK and the US, find they have a lot more things they can say when they’re here in South Africa than when they’re where they’re from. Other countries are still more conservative. The only thing in South Africa that sometimes becomes tricky is culture, or the differences between the many black cultures we have. A simple thing like a greeting makes a difference to an African audience. Greeting them in their mother tongue or in English, or knowing someone’s clan name or your own, all make a difference in how your show or performance begins and how they welcome or don’t welcome you, which tells you if they’re going to laugh
Yolisa: Do you ever get mistaken for someone famous?
David: Yes, some people still call me Dadaman from The Phat Joe Show. Lately, I take a lot of pictures as David Tlale. I never say no...
Yolisa: You started off doing purely stand-up, but now you have diversified into production, online media, motivational speaking, etc. Tell me how this process happened.
David: Kagiso Lediga and I had always wanted to make movies. We came up with the idea for PMS when we were second-year UCT students [in 1997], and we only fell into comedy in 1998. I guess everything took on a life of its own. Comedy took first preference because we made it look so easy. It paid a lot of money, it involved just you and the audience, no cast or writers or directors or business partners. Then there came a time when we knew we were capable of doing more, and we mostly only ever worked at night and not a lot, so we had a sh*t load of time on our hands. At least, I did.
Yolisa: What’s the most random thing you’ve ever been tweeted by one of your fans?
David: ‘My aunt/grandmother died pls tell me a joke.’ This was just weird and awkward. A bit psycho, too. Sometimes you just have to move on and read the next tweet or delete and block. Twitter is not real life, so I treat it exactly like what it is – a social-media app that is one of hundreds.
Yolisa: Would you recommend stand-up as a career choice?
David: It’s not really a career choice; it’s more of a calling. It can’t be taught, but once you have it, it can be refined, packaged and sold really well.
Yolisa: What do you think South Africa will look like in 20 years?
David: I hope we have flying cars and sh*t. If we still have squatter camps, then they must come in, like, a small box that you can just press a button and your little squatter room appears. Basically, I hope we have high-speed internet and are not still behind Kenya. I hope there’s less corruption, not zero corruption. As long as people’s lives are better. No more load shedding. I’d also like my family in Kroonstad not to have to buy water like they do now, because the water coming out of the taps is dirty or undrinkable. Less crime would be a win. More jobs, more tourists and, from the way things are looking right now with the era of ‘yellow bones’, I’m sure there will be more coloured people – or mixed people, as they prefer to be called. Hopefully, South Africa will not have a white president; it will be