His face is everywhere. From discussing the culinary classic that is amagwinya on Instagram to invoking feelings of nostalgia with his quirky lockdown Chicken Licken advert, he’s become a household name.
Comedian Tyson Ngubeni’s star has been rising throughout the lockdown period and he’s been having fun making South Africans laugh.
The 32-year-old from Soweto became a social media sensation after he premiered a video where he meticulously reports on a fence barricade, also known as a stop-nonsense, using a faultless British accent.
He didn’t plan the video and didn’t know it would do so well.
His church group asked him to do a stand-up comedy set for their virtual services, but he had only a week to put something together. He told them he would rather do skits, which are short comedic videos.
“I was like okay. I made like a six minutes thing, a news parody. There was an anchor character and there were field reporters. I was playing multiple characters and one of them was that field reporter, reporting on a stop-nonsense,” he says.
The video quickly went viral and he started doing more.Two months later, he is now on a mainstream television advert with one of the biggest chicken franchises in South Africa.
The experience is still all too surreal, he tells us. He’d been trying to get into the industry for a while after he finished his drama and journalism studies at Rhodes University. He was constantly rejected. Now things have turned around for him.
“When that ad came out last week it really blew my mind and I actually spent a lot of that day in tears,” he recalls.
“Just thinking about everything that has happened up to now, wanting to work at this level for so long and being turned down by agencies for so long even after getting the drama degree.”
The love from fans and finally getting recognition has made him want to work harder.
He’s always had a knack for accents, he says, and uses the British accent because it’s hilarious and he can execute it quite well.
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He learnt to work accents when he spent three years working at a call center after finishing his studies. He was servicing customers from the Netherlands and that meant he had to speak to them in Dutch.
A year after getting to the firm one of his missions was to sound as Dutch as possible so that customers believed they were speaking to a fellow countryman.
“The Netherlands is such a small country, but they have so many different dialects, so I basically picked one.
It got to a point where the people calling would have no idea that they were speaking to a South African and even a black South African on top of that,” he says with a laugh.
“So, after I’d solve their computer problem and we’d be having an email conversation then they see the name ‘Ngubeni’ they would be like, ‘What’s going on?’ I’d then explain that I’m South African and they’d be shocked, all the time.”
This has taught him to be grateful for every opportunity that comes his way. South Africans can expect to see even more of his face, he says proudly.