Now that comedy has become huge in South Africa and comics like Loyiso Gola and Kagiso Lediga are major TV and film stars, lots of young people are trying to break into the business. Out of the noise and the hype one humble and physically slight young comic seemed to emerge as a fully formed talent. In our search for comics to feature in our SUP South Africa episode, one clip of Mpho’s comedy was enough to send us digging for more; but instead of clips what came my way was the recommendation of veteran comics who admired his talent and felt warmly enough toward him to encourage us to consider him. We knew we wanted a comic from the next generation of post-apartheid comics and Mpho is among the best of them–he was nominated for the Newcomer Award at 2011 South African Comic’s Choice Awards, then in 2012 for the Breakthrough Act Award.
Check out that first clip here:
When we first spoke over video skype he admitted to me that he went in with only two good jokes when he tried out for the television show So You Think You’re Funny. When the audition went well he was asked to give more and had to feint: “I want to save it for the show.” So how did this twenty-two year old kid from the Soweto township who studied hard to graduate college as a Logistics Management major have it in him to jump into comedy and take the scene by storm in just two short years?
He gave me some insights on that first call. When he stood up in front of the computer camera and pulled up his shirt sleeves to show me thin arms and a slight physique, Mpho told me that “humor has always been my best defense.” He may have no muscles and geeky glasses, but Mpho does have a strong mind. He was a math champion who got a scholarship to attend a private school for several years. When his mother’s public school teacher salary was too tight to afford private school, he was suddenly dropped into the largest public high school in Soweto. The bullies were behind him one day ready to give him the initiative pummeling when they heard him telling jokes. He won them over and they backed off. He also won me over on that call.
Mpho is not only a comic on the rise with his own comedy special coming out later this year, but he’s also an upstanding guy. He does comedy and empowerment workshops with kids from the townships, encouraging them to dream big and make “no excuses.” He creates edutainment films that are really excellent, like this one in which he raps some financial knowledge out to other young people.
Check out Mpho’s funny and skillful rapping here:
He’s also a new dad, but he can’t marry or live with his “lady” until he can afford the traditional payment of “Labola” to his future wife’s family. As I understand it, it’s a way of saying “thank you for raising a good daughter.” I think he’ll be in good shape to have that wedding pretty soon, and I can’t wait to see what happens when Mpho and Hasan share the stage with Loyiso in Johannesburg on May 2nd.
Follow Mpho on twitter.
Mpho Popps, Loyiso Gola and Hasan Minhaj will perform at Parker’s Comedy and Jive in Johannesburg this Thursday May 2 at 8:00pm. Get your tickets here.