Tsitsi Chiumya (26), from Lebowakgomo, Limpopo, is a young and exciting comedian, who is gaining traction for his witticisms about everyday life.
By: Thanduxolo “Thandz” Buti
Main Image: Supplied
As the world appears to be in a state of collapse because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) global pandemic, humour seems to be the lens which helps us make sense of the pandemonium.
And with the government imposing a nationwide lockdown and “social distancing” regulations, in efforts to flatten the COVID-19 curve – television, gadgets, social media and streaming have been the only modes of entertainment for citizens, while in quarantine.
Tsitsi praises the SA government for its swiftness in implementing regulation to help control the contagion in the country.
“The lockdown regulations might seem a bit harsh but for the sake of our well-being, it’s worth it,” he tells Blacklight.
“It’s not nice that they have to enforce this, and to hear about people being beaten. And it’s also not wise and careless for people to (knowingly) violate the regulations.
“However, looking at how badly other countries seem to have been hit by this virus, I would say this (lockdown) is a welcomed discomfort, on my end.”
Like many other entertainers, Tsitsi has had to resort to performing sketches at his home and streaming them to his followers, another way of complying with the “social distancing” regulations.
This year, the comedian had planned to continue his nine-province tour of his debut one-man show, So Naïve, which aired as a special on 1Magic (DStv 103) and now available for streaming on Showmax.
He shares that humour has always been a great tool for South Africans to make sense of their reality, and during these COVID-19 times it’s one of the most effective ways of engaging people on the crisis.
“Comedy is one of the purest forms of art – and usually, jokes that are not relatable to (our) truth fail to have impact.
“Comedy also helps us identify the beauty in the world even amid confusion,” he explains.
Tsitsi’s So Naïve special:
“The current situation has challenged us [comedians] to open ourselves us up to new ways of communicating our messages. It’s challenged us to infuse different genres and elements to our craft, like comedy sketches and role-playing. We are doing live talk shows and games on social media.
“In a way, it’s like you are hanging out with the entire world because we are more or less in the same predicament.
“Yes, you may not be getting paid like you would if you if you were doing an event (a physical show), but this can help one focus on the bigger picture, careerwise. I believe the time for digital content creation is now.”
Being the “One to watch” in comedy
In 2018, Tsitsi catapulted to prominence when he scooped the Savanna Comic’s Choice Award for “Best New Comer”. He also gained a cult following after being singled out by internationally acclaimed comedian and The Daily Show host Trevor Noah, to be part of his 13-part series, Trevor Noah Presents NationWild, which showcased South Africa’s upcoming comedians.
The comedian believes that to be acknowledged by industry heavyweights and being singled out as “one to watch” can be a great confidence booster. “When you get the backing of the industry, you become bolder and you push yourself to try out new things as a comedian,” he explains.
“When other comedians are rooting for you, going out into the world, you are not just representing yourself, but also those people who vouched for you. It’s an honour and a beautiful thing,” he gushes.
Tsitsi on Trevor Noah Presents: NationWild:
Tsitsi has also won a South African Film And Television Award (SAFTA) for scriptwriting, for his contribution to Puppet Nation, a political satire puppet show on ZANews.
He says the experience threw him “in the deep-end” and further cultivated his comedic skills.
The Wits University of Digital Arts (game design) undergraduate alumni also believes that his career as a game designer further emboldened him to pursue comedy.
“Game designing exposed me to the world at a young age,” he says.
“I travelled to the US (United States), Europe, and to other parts of Africa I had never been to.
“Such experiences broaden your cultural archive, which can be great for comedy. It also opens your mind and helps you create content that has universal appeal.”
Becoming a stand-up comedian
The charmingly boyish comedian reveals that he has always possessed an untamable urge to explore all opportunities presented to him.
“Funny, I got into comedy because of my best friend,” he giggles.
“I studied game designing after my dad persuaded me into try it out. I was supposed to do engineering, but he knew that I loved to dabble in a lot of things, and therefore, feared that I would eventually get bored with the course. So, I tried game design and fell in love with it.
“I could say I got to where I am because of a series of coincidences, but I was prepared and willing to fully embrace every opportunity.”
Now a flourishing comedian, he shares that he has realised that “intention” is the key to success.
“No one wants to struggle and not have money. However, if you get into something solely because of money, then you will do just about anything to get money,” He explains.
“There is money-making potential in comedy but, you also have to decide what sort of comedian you want to be. This might be a cliché, but, you must “Remember why you started.”
“For me, I have this childlike approach of wanting to do more in every space I am in.
“As kids, all we wanted was to have fun, and to make the most out of every moment – I want to keep living like that.”
Be true to yourself
The stand-up comedy scene is infamous for being tough to penetrate, as a result, many quit after “bombing”, believing that they are not funny or cut out for the industry.
Tsitsi says the best way to deal with self-doubt is to be true to yourself. “Sometimes self-doubt can tempt you to change or dilute your intention,” he says.
“For an example, I am an English speaking comedian from Limpopo, and sometimes I have to perform for audiences that expect me to perform in vernac. I cannot introduce or sell myself as someone or something I am not.
“The most depressing thing ever is to have an audience not laughing at jokes and also not liking you because you misrepresented yourself on stage. That’s the worst.”
The comedian says he was able to carve his voice by mirroring people like himself with similar experiences.
“Those people, like myself, also want to be represented or reflected in society,” he explains “ And when they respond to my stories, I am reminded that what I do has purpose.”