Fierce, funny females
When it comes to comedy, you’re either funny or you’re not. And these princesses of punchlines definitely fall into the “funny” category.
Stars like Khanyisa Bunu, Celeste Ntuli and Tumi Morake are taking South Africa by storm, both in their own comedy specials and in lead roles in some seriously humorous movies. They more than match up to international superstars like the incomparable Aussie Hannah Gadsby. Here’s where you can stream them all.
Hannah Gadsby: Douglas
From seriously dark beginnings – suffering a nervous breakdown while still at school, a spell of homelessness and more – comes seriously brilliant comedy. Australian native Hannah Gadsby fearlessly laid bare the deepest traumas of her life in the breakout hit comedy special Nanette, which catapulted her to fame. Now she’s back for another hour of comedy gold in Douglas, in which she further explores her life and her 2015 autism diagnosis. It’s rollicking, deeply cutting, clever comedy. Also watch Nanette, both on Netflix.
Khanyisa Bunu is a one-woman wrecking crew on the stage. Her comedy special is on Showmax and the only two things you need to know are: Khanyisa is funny as hell, and she tells it like it is – this show isn’t for anyone younger than 16 and features a couple of swearwords and adult material. Nothing’s off the cards for the comedian either, whose routine features stories that every-day South Africans can relate to – from load-shedding and e-tolls, to being mugged in the street. What makes her funnier is that she keeps the same straight face while rapping to the audience. Everything from her mouth is serious and that makes it even funnier.
She’s no fly-by-night either – Khanyisa has been telling jokes for over a decade.
“I started doing comedy in 2009 after taking part in a reality show on SABC1 – So You Think You Are Funny. I realised I had it in me to pursue it as a career,” explains the comedian. It hasn’t been an easy road to the top, with her family being worried at first.
“My family has accepted it now. My mother was a bit concerned in the beginning because I had left a stable teaching job for a career that has no guarantees. But as soon she saw that I was doing well she fully supported it. My challenge has been like any other comic’s challenge, getting stage time so as to showcase my talent. Things are slowly changing but there is still a long was to go.”
Celest Ntuli is comedy royalty in SA. She got further (slightly) than Khanyisa in So You Think and was one of the country’s very first women comics to record her own one-woman DVD.
But she’s also an actress and knows how to perform, which comes through in her routines like Sex Live At The Lyric and Tripping With Skhumba, as well as in the lead role of comedies like Looking For Love. What sets her apart is that she does not hold back. If she wants to talk about something, not even the threat of jail time will silence Celeste. And that’s a good thing – because people need a laugh and they need a laugh about real-world problems.
She almost never made it to the top of comedy – and it would’ve been due to a family member if audiences had been deprived of her jokes.
Watch the episode of Trippin With Skhumba when they go back to her home in eSikhawini and they visit the tavern next door to Celeste’s house, which is run by her cousin Dick, who tells them, “No one thought she would get to where she is now. She always had jokes but when it comes to a career, even I had my doubts. She left her job as a manager at CNA. I kept the keys. She said, ‘Cuz, I’m following my career now.’ I told her, ‘No, telling jokes won’t work.’ But she taught us to follow your dream.”
Tumi Morake is comedy gold. She’s rude and crude and lewd when she wants to be – watch her tear into disgraced businessman Kenny Kunene and the other guests in Comedy Central’s Roast special – or dropping truth bombs about her life and career in Trippin With Skhumba. Tumi has been there, done that, got a wardrobe full of shirts – she’s paid her dues in the comedy industry and it’s given her loads of work and opportunity to make people laugh. Because that’s what comedy is all about.
One thing that Tumi isn’t laughing about is COVID-19. She’s been stuck in the US since lockdown and is missing home.
“We would rather be home just because it’s so much easier in an environment you’re familiar with. However, it’s not all doom and gloom. We are with family here, so the self-isolation is also an opportunity for us to get to know our extended family better,” she says, adding that she uses her social media accounts to keep fans updated – and having something else to laugh about, knowing that we’re all in this together.