“Get lost if you can’t take a joke. Our job is to talk about things that are wrong, and we’ll keep doing it unless you kill us.” [on the attitude of South African comedians]
Though Americans might know him from his cameo as a doctor in Die Antwoord’s “Fatty Boom Boom” music video, South Africans know Kagiso Lediga as a comedy pioneer who has become no less relevant or funny over the course of his 13-year career. Although he is best known for his comedy Kagiso is also an award-winning actor, screenwriter, director and producer. It would not be a stretch to compare him to Woody Allen, one of his childhood heroes. He even has similar glasses.
Kagiso was one of the very first black comics in South Africa who ventured into stand-up comedy in an era when crowds were almost entirely white, and no value was placed on homegrown talent. Just as Monte Python was given the keys to the palace when no one was paying attention, Kagiso, Loyiso Gola and friends were allowed to put South Africa’s first sketch comedy show on the air for two seasons in 2003-2004, a cult hit called The Pure Monate Show. It was audaciously frank about race and politics in an era when the country was still cloaked in a post-Apartheid hush of political correctness.
Comedy Central Africa recently honored Kagiso by producing his first full-length stand-up comedy special, Kagiso Lediga: In a Suit. He also currently produces and writes the hit show Late Night News with Loyiso Gola, and recently played a principal role in the hit film Blitz Patrollie, which he wrote. He is intensely funny; sophisticated without being opaque; relaxed without being boring, and rooted deeply in his culture while remaining accessible to diverse audiences. Imagine a more-mellow Eddie Murphy if he spoke with a South African accent, and you’re getting close.
As a leader in South African comedy, Kagiso Lediga is taking the scene in a great direction. Hopefully more young comics will follow in (a) suit.