It’s sink or swim in the competitive comedy industry

WOMEN POWER Kagiso Lediga says not enough has been done for female comedians in the country. Picture: Ndileka Lujabe
WOMEN POWER Kagiso Lediga says not enough has been done for female comedians in the country. Picture: Ndileka Lujabe

Open up the industry.

This is the call that has been made by young, up-and-coming talent struggling to break into the entertainment industry, which some feel actively excludes new and emerging talent.

This week comedian and film maker, Kagiso Lediga said the industry had not done enough to create enough space for women in comedy to showcase their talent and receive the same opportunities as their male counterparts.

In an interview at his Braamfontein studio the 40-year-old comedian-turned-actor/producer and director said: “We tried to do our best with our show, Bantu Hour. At the moment my favourite comedian in South Africa is Celeste Ntuli – she is breaking barriers on her own. But I also see Noko Moswete and Tumi Morake.

“It’s a bit disappointing that we do not acknowledge female comedians enough. But there are a lot more female comedians than there have ever been – so there is some progress,” he said.

To illustrate his point, Lediga used, as an example, The Thunderbirds – an all-women stand-up comedy show that performed at the Johannesburg International Comedy Festival yesterday.

Widely recognised for his role in the popular, The Pure Monate Show, a sketch comedy show from the early 2000s, Lediga said: “The Phat Joe Show is where I got the break into this space. Before I got on to the Phat Joe Show we had put in a proposal for The Pure Monate Show at the SABC.

“We kept on thinking it would happen at any moment but it actually took four years for it to come into existence.”

Having started his career in sketch comedy shows, Lediga said the comedy scene had evolved in the past two decades.

“When we started doing stand-up there was a certain idea of what stand-up comedians were and it was sort of the first time that there were non-white comics.

“So when we invited people to come and watch us they didn’t know what to expect,” he said.

Speaking about the talent in this country, Lediga said: “The best comedians in South Africa are the best comedians in the world.

“When we look at comedians Loyiso Gola and Trevor [Noah], they are of international standard.

“I also feel that because of the isolation, coming from apartheid, we have to measure up when we go into the rest of the world.

“I was lucky. I made a good living from stand-up. I was able to do other things and actually build a brand.

“But for a young comedians coming in now, there are so many comedians,” he said, adding that the industry had become saturated.

“Back when I started, if there was a line-up and I was part of it and I was unable to make it to the event for whatever reason, it would be difficult to find someone to replace me because there were very few comedians,” he said.

“But now if I don’t show up, there will be two other guys ready to take that spot. So the competition now is really high,” he said.

So, whoever makes it through at this level, has to be really good to make a living from it.

“You really have to be so good. It’s sink or swim.”

For the full video interview go to citypress.co.za.

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