Showing posts with label the interview. Show all posts
Showing posts with label the interview. Show all posts

The Interview: Tsitsi Chiumya

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Comedian Tsitsi Chiumya tells us about his rise to fame, and how his sense of style has evolved along the way.
Growing up in Lebowakgomo, a small township in Limpopo, and only learning English in his teens, Edgars' creator of culture and local influencer, Tsitsi Chiumya, might never have imagined a career as a comedian. But in just a few short years he’s set stages alight all over the country with his shows, raking up awards along the way. He tells Edwain Steenkamp how he got there.

Growing up, were you the funny kid? 

No, but I was definitely the naughty kid! My mom had me when she was very young, so I was raised by my grandparents who were strict but very loving. I think, with me, they had their hands full.

So comedy wasn’t something you dreamed about? 

As a kid I didn’t even know it could be a career. Living in such a small place, I had other dreams. At one stage I wanted to be an athlete more than anything. But I always knew that I wanted to live a happy life. That was something my small village taught me too: what’s most valuable in life.

What was the next major chapter of your life?

I went to study video design at Wits University. So my life nearly took a very different turn. There weren’t many kids like me on campus at that time. I felt different, but it didn’t stand in my way. In fact, I realised that somehow it allowed me to reach people.

Was it during this time that you discovered your gift of entertaining? 

Yes, that was when I started telling stories from my childhood and from where I grew up. I knew that my classmates loved the stories I told, and so I started preparing and rehearsing them in the evenings. I might have added a few embellishments here and there, but they loved the stories. It was like a whole new world opened up.

Was that when you decided on your future career path? 

Actually, it happened very slowly. I was always drawn to comedy; I remember my friends and I watching comedy shows till three in the morning. So right after university I moved to Cape Town and spent all the money I had – and also money I didn’t have – to watch every comedy show possible. From there, I started participating in any show that would have me. I eventually landed a segment on the Expresso Morning Show and added as much of my comedy into it as I could. I was travelling up and down, trying to make this all happen … getting as little as four hours sleep a night.

How did you manage all of it? 

I honestly don’t know! I was so exhausted all the time, but it felt right. I knew it would all be worth it.

What do you think is the most important aspect of your comedy? 

I think a lot of people expect the same formula from South African comedians, that is, comedy based on the hardships of the country’s past, and the struggles we face today. You know, politically heavy content.

Do you try to stay away from that? 

I mean it enters my comedy of course. But I want to tell different stories too. Stories that everyone relates to. And for me, that's powerful comedy – the kind where the humour is universal. And I draw from some of my personal experiences.

What kind of experiences? 

I was a kid from Limpopo who could barely speak English, and then suddenly I was in a big city – there’s something about that situation everyone can relate to. Being the awkward kid, unsure of themselves and not really fitting in anywhere. Looking for acceptance, inspiration and guidance.

Speaking of inspiration, who has influenced you the most? 

More than individual people, there are moments in different people’s careers that have inspired me so much. And through these moments in many of the most legendary comedians’ careers, I have learned different techniques and styles. Drawing from that I have been able to develop my own sense of comedy.

You’re known as a smart dresser. Has this also developed over the years? 

Since I was a young boy I was aware of style. Both my grandparents were so stylish. My grandmother always dressed impeccably, and my grandfather always had the best suits. I definitely learned what style is from my family. But I was always a little shy and unsure about what looked good on me.

When did you learn to let go of that uncertainty? 

It was actually when I worked with one of the stylists at Edgars. He handed me the nicest botanical printed shirt and told me that when I go shopping, I should always look out for at least one item of clothing that’s outside my comfort zone and incorporate it into my closet. It was the best style advice I’ve ever received. To this day, that shirt is my favourite item of clothing and I take it everywhere I go.


Favourite fashion items? 
A nice shirt, and definitely a good pair of sneakers.

Favourite food?
Pap and wors. It’s a classic.

Guilty pleasure? 
Mangoes. I can eat them any time.

How do you unwind? 
I play video games; I’m still very passionate about gaming.

Some of your favourite comedians?
Trevor Noah, Robby Collins and Kevin Hart.

Check out Tsitsi's Instagram
Photography:, Instagram, Shutterstock

Why Lockdown's Lorcia Cooper doesn't need Hollywood

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An accomplished actress, dancer, choreographer, talent-show judge and national treasure in the arts, Lorcia Cooper chats to Linda Mzamane about her career, family and patriotism.

Lorcia Cooper for Mzansi Magic shoot

What sparked your love of dancing?

When I was about nine years old, my dance teacher Debbie Turner used to drive 35km to come and fetch me – just so I could attend dance lessons. It impacted me so greatly because it’s one thing to have talent but it’s another to have someone to support your talent; it made me see something in myself. If she didn’t drive that distance for me, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Debbie runs the Cape Academy of Performing Arts and is a judge on Strictly Come Dancing.

How does dancing make you feel?

Dance is a form of healing. When I struggle to articulate how I am feeling, dance helps me work through it – it’s an escape; some people meditate, but I dance. Dance was my way out and up. I developed a programme called Life Skills Through Dance, which teaches discipline, self-belief, punctuality and going beyond your limits. As a dance teacher, being able to add value to kids is also a form of healing, as it reminds me that I need to be those things myself. I want to give back what dance has given me. I’m not teaching kids so that they can win competitions; I want them to feel whole in every other area of their lives. Dance is a medium to shift thinking and habits.


What about South African dancers makes them most unique?

Africa as a whole is a big part of the history of dance. It forms part of many cultures. Every tribe has their dance tradition; there is an ownership of rhythm and expression. Dance is something that brings us together as a diverse people.

Lorcia Cooper for Mzansi Magic shoot

You’re also a highly accomplished actress. What is your ultimate acting dream?

The typical dream for most actors is to make it to Hollywood and perhaps win an Oscar. I don’t have that aspiration. I act because I love it; I love telling stories that aren’t mine, and honouring the people who the stories belong to. I’ve been typecast as the pretty coloured girl for a long time in the industry so I was very grateful when my role as Tyson on Lockdown came about because I finally got to play something ‘other’ than what I’m used to. I like losing myself in a character. I like going into a role and blowing myself away. I aspire to create my own content to assist in telling stories that represent my people. I am in the process of doing that already. Coloured people are more than just about guns, drugs and alcohol, as is often portrayed on screens.

In what ways do you identify with your character Tyson in the critically acclaimed show Lockdown?

In season one I learned that women do what they have to do to protect the people they love, as Tyson did for her brother. In that [prison] environment, you’re either the puppet or the puppet master. And that’s very much the case in real life too; I had to ask myself which one I am. Tyson acts really tough but is easily breakable. We tend to judge people who look tough, but in reality they are that way to survive. In the second season Tyson was raped, adding another aspect to the story altogether. This hit home to me in real life because this is the reality for so many women. My work is about making an impact and making a difference, and I’d like to believe I am doing that in the role I play in Lockdown.

Lorcia Cooper Lockdown Mzansi Magic
Lorcia Cooper as Tyson in Lockdown  

How do you juggle work and motherhood?

Being a mom is my biggest role. There is no greater part to play. If there were an award for being a mom, I would be gunning for it. That’s the Oscar I want! I have a 13 and an 11 year old. It’s important for me to be able to tune out of my roles at work in order to be a mom when I get home. But it’s got to be a conscious decision. The first thing I do when I get home is shower; it’s my way of physically changing roles.

What do you love the most about South Africa?

I’ve been travelling around SA looking for talent for Showville and what’s beautiful is the warmth of our people no matter where we go. Also, the fact that we can equally express ourselves is an amazing thing. There is openness for different sexualities; there is a celebration and an embrace of difference. South Africa is becoming a global brand; we are working and travelling abroad and making a mark globally. I also love our country’s natural beauty and abundance. If you want mountains, you go there; if you want the sea, you go there. We have everything. South Africa is moving confidently towards knowing that it has something to offer, and I love that.

Catch Lorcia as a judge on Showville weekly on SABC 2 and as Tyson on Lockdown on Mzansi Magic (DStv channel 161).