What you need to know to become a stand-up comedian

Ever wanted to be a stand up comedian?

Comedians in South Africa like to shake things up with with radical commentary, scathing satire, colourful impersonations and improvisation routines.

Anything and everything goes. One can always create a joke out of things happening around you whether about the latest political development or an experience one of your friends experienced on a first date. The price of petrol going up may not be humorous to most, but some of the funniest jokes come on the spur of the moment, and are related to things to which, in any other context, may not be funny at all.

Comedy clubs in South Africa only really started making an appearance in the mid to late 90’s. A handful of clubs are dedicated entirely to comedy. Comedy in South Africa is here to stay and continues to grow from strength-to-strength with international comedians mixing it up with the locals. Events like the annual Comics Choice Awards which chooses the Newcomer of the Year as well as the Audience Choice Award, make sure that audiences stay laughing.

The comedy clubs of South Africa may perform out of bars, restaurants and theatres every other night, but at the end of the day as far as inclusive, multi-cultural comedy goes it’s still refreshingly young and developing at a rapid rate; a few years from now we should see dedicated comedy clubs setting up on South Africa’s popular city strips.

Some clubs, venues and events you might consider performing at…

Parker’s Comedy Club (located at Montecasino and Silverstar Casino) has regular shows and events featuring stand-up comedians from the Johannesburg area. There’s also The Box in Maboneng (where Goliath & Goliath hosts their comedy nights on Sundays) and Emperors Palace (on the East Rand) features a number of comedy events at different times of the year, including Blacks Only Comedy Show and the Heavyweight Comedy Jam.

Jou Ma Se Comedy Club at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town run by well-known comedian Kurt Schoonraad and features some of the city’s hottest comedians and serves as a platform for up-and-coming comic acts. In Pretoria, comedians appear once a month at Arcade Empire and at Park Acoustics.  Theatres also provide stages for some of South Africa’s top comedians. Stand-up comedy is definitely alive, well and growing in South Africa.


Trevor Noah, whose performances sell out across the world, is South Africa’s best known comedian.

You have probably heard of a few of these people:

Barry Hilton :  With a track record of 30 years in comedy, Barry Hilton has raised the world’s laughter level considerably. His delightful knack of finding the ludicrous and the humorous turns daily situations on their head to make us laugh at life.

Deep Fried Man: Award-winning musical comedian Deep Fried Man was dropped on his head several times as a young child, and this has had a profound effect on his songwriting style. He started out as a serious musician before realising that the audience was laughing at him, after which he decided to try and at least make them laugh on purpose

Marc Lottering: He hails from Cape Town, and is one of South Africa’s top comedians. He has been in the funny business for 13 years and continues to keep audiences in stitches across the country.

Riaad Moosa: Doctor Riaad Moosa is an award-winning comedian, presenter, writer and actor; and happens to be a qualified medical doctor as well! He recently starred as Ahmed Kathrada in Anant Singh’s epic Oscar and Golden Globe nominated movie ‘Mandela – Long Walk to Freedom.’

Soli Philander: Soli Philander is one of South Africa’s top and most versatile performers. This seasoned broadcaster is also an award-winning actor, television presenter, director, comedian, playwright, columnist and motivational speaker.

Trevor Gumbi: He is a South African comedian, writer and actor best known as co-host (and voice over artist) of the Mzansi Magic entertainment magazine show Headline (2010-2013) and for his active and vocal Twitter account.

Tumi Morake : She is a performer at heart. Her acting career began in 2004. On discovering a knack for comedy, she branched off onto the stand-up comedy circuit in 2006. Tumi has performed on stage, on television and in films; in English, Afrikaans, Sesotho, Setswana and Isizulu all over South Africa.

We recently spoke to Kagiso Lediga (one of South Africa’s top stand-up comics) at the Hello Ambassador Creative Conference (which recently took place at the State Theatre in Pretoria).

Kagiso Lediga

Kagiso offers some insight into becoming a stand up comedian. Check out our interview with him below…

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Some tips before you start:

Before even thinking of a joke, you need to build up your comic vocabulary. Here are a couple of terms you’ll hear often:

·         To kill: To do really well. The audience loves you.

·         To bomb: To do really badly. This is where there is a danger of tomato peltage.

·         Dying: The process of bombing.

·         Set: Your collection of jokes. A noun. (E.g., “I just memorised my set.”)

·         Setup: The explanation part of a joke. It’s the part of the joke that you’re not supposed to laugh at. The exposition of a situation or story.

·         Punch line: The funny part of a joke. What you’re supposed to laugh at.

·         Heckler: Someone in the audience who talks and interrupts a comedian in an insulting way, in attempt to make the comedian bomb.

·         Payment: What! You want to get paid?

Now that you know the “lingo”, follow this advice and you could become famous with your stand-up routine. Either that or you’ll be pelted with rotten tomatoes.

Arm yourself with funny stories and write them down, ask friends, family or follow scenarios on social to see what topics are trending in the market.

Write down your own experiences, it’s always funny if it happened to you and it is also easier to put emotion into the story so people can relate to what you are saying.

Practice in front of the mirror so you can watch your facial expressions. Know your material, there is nothing worse than someone starting a joke and forgets the punch line.

Go to open mic nights at comedy clubs and when you are there, familiarize yourself with the settings which includes lighting and sound. You need to be heard, but you also do not want to shout at the audience. When you are on stage, stick to your allocated time. Try not to insult anyone personally.

Open mic nights are: Usually for 3-5 minutes. If you’re funny and the crowd enjoy your ‘SET’ you will be invited back.

Don’t give up and never take it personally, maybe it wasn’t your night?

So, there you have it, some great tips to help you become a stand up comedian. If you decide this is not for you, check out the other jobs available on Job Mail. Leave a comment and let us know what your thoughts are. Feedback is appreciated and welcome here.

If you found this to be informative and useful information, remember that Sharing is Caring. Feel free to check out our previous installments in this series featuring Mike Sharman (on how to get into the Digital Marketing Industry) and Alessio La Ruffa (on how to become an Instagrammer and make a career out of it).

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4 Responses

  1. Faustin says:

    It’s nice ! I mean, it’s even better to read your helpful information on Standing Up as a Comedian! It was helpful!

  2. Ntokozo says:

    It really helpful, I’m talking about tips and information your gave us about stand up comedy

  3. Khanyisa says:

    The tips are amazingly helpful and courageous

  4. FireGirl says:

    Hahhaha, good topic

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