Cape Town - Skhumba Hlophe is one of South Africa’s most talented comedians. He’s the man behind one of the funniest local shows on the smallscreen. His reality show, Trippin’ with Skhumba, has audiences in stitches as he drives around the country in an aircon-less combi to visit his famous friends in their hometowns.
A BORN PERFORMER
Growing up in Tembisa, near Kempton Park, Skhumba was the class clown. “I’d frustrate the teachers and my classmates by telling jokes,” he says. “Sometimes people paid me not to make fun of them at school. “He says high school was like climbing a long steep hill for him and he matriculated at the age of 22. “I failed grades three, four, six and 11.
I wasn’t dumb, I was just restless and naughty. “His mother, Queen Hlophe (54), taught him a valuable lesson when she pushed him to matriculate. “She knew I was smart. I just needed to concentrate more in class. When I did, I passed with flying colours,” he says.
Going to university wasn’t an option. “My mom couldn’t afford to pay university fees. I wasn’t interested in studying anything,” he jokes. “I hung around eKasi (the township) for two years and then got a job at the South African Police Service (SAPS).”He was out of his depth when he applied for a post in the human resources department at SAPS.
“But I told myself I was going to get the job,” he says. Everyone arrived at the interview wearing formal black or white shirts, but Skhumba stood out in a bright red shirt. “I knew I was special.”
Ten years ago, he got into comedy when he realised he could make a living out of making people laugh. When he took to the stage for the first time, he earned R100. By 2015 Skhumba, who made a name for himself using what he calls tsotsi lingo, was earning R8 000 a gig.
He spent his first big pay cheque on a microwave for his grandmother, Qhamkile Hlophe (74). He also bought himself Nike sneakers and a new TV for his mother and sisters; Nomsa (29) and Thusi (25). He’s had his fair share of heartache– Skhumba lost his firstborn when she was a few weeks old. Samkelo would’ve turned 13 this year.
The doting dad lives to see the smiles of his children, Nikiwe (12), Ali-Bongwe (8) and Sinakhokonke (1).“I’m grateful for my children and my family every day,” he says. “I have dark days, like everyone else. But I always reflect at how far I’ve come and what I’ve overcome, and I know tomorrow is another day.”
He adores his wife, Dibakiso Moloi(32), who’s had to learn to deal with him airing their dirty laundry at his comedy shows. “If the audience doesn’t laugh, then she won’t eat. It’s that simple.”
THE SPIRIT OF UBUNTU
With a starring role in the comedy series Thandeka’s Diary, a music show on SABC and a job co-hosting Kaya FM’s Friday morning breakfast show, Skhumba’s career is soaring. Yet the award-winning comedian is never too busy to help the less privileged. To celebrate his birthday in August, Skhumba hosts shows across the country and uses the proceeds to buy wheelchairs. “We’ve already bought 565wheelchairs,” he says.