Stand-up comic Lihle Msimang intends to travel in future.
When Lihle Lindzy Msimang took a dare from someone to try out stand-up comedy at university, little did she know that she had what it takes to make a career out of comedy.

Yet, what began as a game at university for the 26-year-old comedienne from Soweto sunk in deeper while she was completing her BA Live Performance at the School of Motion Picture Medium and Live Performance (Afda).

“I didn’t think of comedy up until varsity, when someone dared me to do this thing,” she recalls. “In fact, we dared each other, because varsity students are stupid, like I don’t know why? It happens, you know.

“You take a dare very seriously. My friend lost, so I had to stay (in the game), but fortunately I loved it.’’

But comedy also comes as no surprise to Msimang, considering her mother made her watch US sitcoms with her two older siblings to keep them away from watching the controversial township drama series Yizo Yizo then.

“In my family we really loved Bill Cosby and Richard Pryor, because my mom would make us watch their tapes. We would all sit together and watch sitcoms and stuff like that,” she says.

“She (mom) preferred us watching popular sitcoms like Fresh Prince of Bel-Air than Yizo Yizo. Obviously we would sneak out to see what’s on it.”

Msimang still looks up to comedians like Pryor, Bill Cosby, Chris Rock and Dave Chapelle, who helped kick-start her own career in comedy.

Six years ago, Msimang was regarded already as the first lady of Christian comedy, but after two major breaks on television with Mzansi Magic’s Laugh Out Loud, and MTV South Africa’s first prank show, You Got Got, she wanted more from her career. She decided to ditch conservative, stand-up comedy for something that would make her spread her wings a little further, and redefine herself as an international comedienne.

“I felt too boxed in it (Christian comedy), I felt like I had to talk about one thing only, and there is only so many Jesus jokes you can make,” she says. “I found the more Jesus jokes you tell, then it becomes borderline offensive.

“I don’t want to offend people’s beliefs and also you can’t take it to other people who don’t believe in the same thing, I was like ‘let me just do comedy’.

“I was like, You got Got. Okay, that might not be the ultimate goal, but it gets me to where I want to be, so it’s taking the steps that are necessary, and then you get to a point where you don’t take everything.

“Everyone would say come and I would say yes. Now I’m like there is a brand at stake here, so it takes time to get where you want to be.”

But Msimang’s quest for more in order to reach her goals in comedy nearly pushed her out altogether.

“There was a moment where I was like, this thing is not going anywhere, then I took a bit of a break,” she recalls.

“It was a number of things, the material wasn’t coming together, and bookings weren’t coming. I felt like I was working and hitting this brick wall the whole time.

“I decided: let me stop this thing, it’s not for me and maybe I’ve been just hyping myself up. And then after sometime I was like ‘let’s try one more time.”

The depressed state she got into was what made her realise she was happiest when telling jokes.

This pushed her to finally put together her one-woman show, Coming From Where I’m From, which will be staged in Joburg on a date yet to be decided. She says the show is about Lihle revealing herself to her fans.

“I want people to get to know me in the show, my past, what I think and all that stuff,” she says. “I don’t want people to go, and then ask: but who is she? It’s all about people knowing the before, and after.”

Msimang is also planning to go international with her comedy to showcase South Africa’s capabilities. And beside her dream to become an international comedienne, she also hopes to see more of the world to better appreciate the country.

“I want to show people South Africa is great; to come back and say ‘guys, the world is great, it’s actually amazing when you go out to see it,” she adds.

The Sunday Independent