When Nina Hastie, in her own words, “joined the circus,” her life began to change drastically.
It was May, 2011 – her birthday month – and the bubbling-under comedian, voice-over artist and advertising industry producer (she’s started a company called Hello Nice with director, Mello Meropa) was living in Cape Town and working at Madame Zingara. Then her hair began to fall out.
“Nothing makes you take stock of your life like going bald,” she shares. “I was really really stressed and wasn’t really taking care of myself and then I was told I have this auto-immune disease called alopecia after my hair fell out for four weeks.”
Hastie also admits that while growing up, she was a hypo-chondriac to the extent that after she got alopecia, she met up with TV personality and pal, Thomas Gumede, who teasingly exclaimed: “Wait, is there something finally wrong with you?”
Hastie has managed to find a humourous side to her issues. Although she’s been passively pursuing a stand-up comedy career for seven years, this former K-TV presenter laughs that “I think I was a bit kak in the beginning,” but Hastie has taken her career seriously in the past couple of months.
She’s super-stoked that she was handpicked by Rasdien to feature (alongside Trevor Gumbi and Paul Snodgrass) on the Comedy Central special that will be shot in Joburg, but aired on DStv’s channel 122 next month.
“Joey and I go way back,” says Hastie. “We performed in London for the Olympics together with Roni Modimola and Kedibone Mulaudzi. Kedi has actually been huge for me and my career because he organises a lot of comedy shows and has given me lank opportunities.”
These opportunities have seen Hastie share her life with audiences, but of late, she has learnt how to tone down the telling of her experiences.
“I used to talk a lot more about sex than I do now,” she laughs. “I kind of cleaned up my act so there are things that are funny in retrospect. I’ve really lived life, hey. I’ve woken up in Cape Town after a really big night. I struggled with manic depression for many years and was just involved in, what’s the word, self-destructive behaviour.”
She continues: “I was just always doing so many things at once and that’s why when my hair fell out I wasn’t taking care of myself. But now I don’t drink anymore and don’t really party, but I do breathing exercises and meditate. Some say I do self-deprecating comedy, but my comedy comes from a place of love.
“Like Jerry Seinfeld says in this thing Nik Rabinowitz sent me: you’ve got to give love to the audience. So I think in the past I was treating comedy as therapy without realising that I’m the therapist and people came to see me and want to be privy to original ideas.”
This comedienne, who is writing a book and has a penchant for wearing Ferrari-red lipstick, doesn’t just stand up because she’s often the shortest person in the room. It’s also because on her bald head, just behind her ear, she has a tattoo of the outline of the African continent and inside it, the Joburg skyline. “I’m not from Jozi, I’m from Pretoria,” she chuckles.
But knowing that there was little chance of her hair ever growing back, “I had to decide if I was going to wear normal wigs, crazy wigs or just put a tattoo on my head and my friend and writer, Danni Diana – who will be a huge part of my next comedy phase – suggested the tattoo.”
Hastie plans on making the most of this year as she’s even voicing a few characters in the upcoming My Child TV political animation series, but for now, she’s concentrating on keeping people in stitches.
• Comedy Central Presents Joey Rasdien Live At Parkers at Parker’s, Comedy Central (DStv channel 122), March 15, 8.50pm.