Meet 3 giants of South African comedy
YOH! The man talks a lot. It is almost as if he thinks for you, but not in a bad way. Donovan anticipates your question before you have even thought of it, he is that quick, so you have to work hard to keep up with him. His childhood achievements include being in a rap band that was “big in Umtata”.
Having grown up in and around the former capital of the Bantustan that was Transkei, he found himself in a unique position: “I look white, but I am coloured, yet I am culturally more Xhosa.”
He also grew up Catholic and was commissioned by a Catholic priest to do oil paintings for various churches. The paintings are all about 2m high and make a good Catholic gal like myself want to weep in the presence of beauty. He was sent to work on them at Marianhill Monastery in KZN and spent weeks in silence just painting.
Then there is his accent. It is not of one who grew up in Umtata: “My accent comes from watching David Attenborough documentaries. I have always been a weird kid.”
And with a rather fierce surname like Goliath?
“It’s opened a lot of doors for me. My full name is Donovan David Goliath. My grandfather was David Goliath.”
Among his many accomplishments are graphic design and working in the advertising industry with clients such as the Metro FM Music Awards and the Nedbank Cup.
He did his first comedy show at the famous Cool Runnings Underground sessions which took place every Sunday night and were run by John Vlismas.
“I saw Tall A$$ Mo performing and he was talking about himself, I realised I also have interesting stories to tell. I love people laughing at my thoughts.”
His second gig was at Wish in Melville and his third at Blues Room. Of his quick rise, he is modest: “Smaller stages are far more difficult than performing to 5 000 people who’ve paid to see you. You’re naked in front of small gigs. There is no production like lights to hide behind. Small gigs are where your comedy must come out.”
Of his subject matter, Donovan says he does many impersonations including one where Jason Statham (Transporter) is a taxi driver taking passengers to the centre of Jozi. Then there is Mandela the rapper, who has a tattoo that reads: “Mandizzy for Winnie for Life”. He also believes that the film Transformers only works because of the type of cars they choose “which is why it would never work in Westbury”.
As he gets up to leave I notice he is wearing a Casio watch straight from the ’80s: “I collect Casio watches because they remind me of my childhood.”
THIS young comedian has a vulnerability about him that is normally reserved for musicians. It is reflected in his large eyes. He and Jason Goliath are cousins and it is clear that Jason has his back in life. He admits that his cousin is a big inspiration to him.
“We both agree that the day you are not nervous before you go on stage is the day you will fail.”
Nicholas says that his style is observational: “I see comedy potential in everything. I am Christian and married to a Muslim. If a Christian man comes home and his wife says to him that she is going to blow him away, he doesn’t have to worry.
“I do comedy to make people smile and forget about their problems for those 15 minutes I am on stage. My role is also to change people’s perceptions in terms of race and religion. Comedy is a great way to do that because people of all races and religions can laugh. We have the platform to change people’s lives. People are too highly strung. I want to change people’s lives.”
Before turning to comedy full- time, he worked in a call centre.
“I enjoy sales because you connect with people on a different level, but I was miserable then. Comedy is what I have always wanted to do.
“I did my English oral at school and my English teacher killed herself laughing and said she would pay to see me. Every Sunday I would go to the Cool Runnings Underground and my friends would always encourage me to go on stage. I used to enjoy watching John Vlismas and Joey Rasdien. They looked like they were happy on stage. The first time I went up was eight years ago. I had no script, but the audience exploded. The second time I again freestyled and the audience died on my ass.”
Three years ago, at a Mother’s Day lunch, Jason said that they should approach comedy more seriously and think of it as a profession.
Now they are celebrating three years of AWEdnesday.
“At that stage we realised that coloured people enjoy life, but they were not in our audiences. We needed to take our comedy to coloured people. We booked Capello’s in town and we sold out. There were 300 people at our first gig.”
He said that initially he wanted to be the comedian who never did the same material twice.
“I had no concept of comedy then. I was tired of not knowing if I was going to succeed and Richelieu Beaunoir the comedian explained that I have natural talent, but I need gags. I realised it’s about polishing my material.”
He sees the role of a comedian as crucial in society: “People don’t respect each other. It also has to do a lot with social networks. They fuel the fire. There is so much hate speech out there. We have been through the struggle and now we can laugh. At that moment in life when it is bad, it’s the worst thing that can happen to you, but at least laugh about it. If we can’t laugh about it we can never get over it. And it’s time.”
THE nation knows him as that Castle guy who organises the biggest braai.
People think I walk around with beers in my pocket,” smiles Jason.
In fact, the Castle adverts are how he got into comedy full-time. The director of the advert recommended that he try comedy.
“At that stage I thought I was only braai-funny. At a Mother’s Day lunch my cousin Nicholas and I agreed to book a comedy night and my life changed.”
Jason has always had a work ethic and was the youngest marketing manager at Makro Crown Mines.
“I am not ambitious. I am ravenous. I crave greatness. When I die there must be devastation and thereafter people must say: ‘Remember the great Jason Goliath.’”
So who had a bigger death – Nelson Mandela or Princess Diana?
“Diana was an instant death and she had her whole life ahead of her. Technically, Mandela had a bigger death, but Diana’s was more of a shock.”
After leaving Makro he started his own brokerage which he said “went down in spectacular style in 2010. In my 20s I wanted money. Chasing money was my best learning curve.”
From that Mother’s Day lunch, Goliath and Goliath have grown into a brand that deals in corporate comedy and supplies MCs and comedians to various events, and then, of course, there is AWEdnesday. This year they featured Chester Missing and Conrad Koch, Joey Rasdien and themselves, among others.
Jason has also featured in other adverts, aside from Castle.
“I was in the 1st For Woman advert where I am the radio screen who talks to the woman in her car. We had no CGI so they literally bolted me into the car with my face sticking out the screen and speaking to her.”
He was also Mayo Man and dressed up in Spandex for promos at malls: “My body has no secrets. I am fearless as a character because it is not me. I am actually a niche performer in that I am a fat coloured guy who does not care about embarrassing myself.”
He believes that comedians have a number of roles, including the fact that they encourage South Africans to openly laugh at themselves and show how crazy our society is: “South Africans are so ridiculously different, but so ridiculously tolerant.”
• The line-up for the next AWEdnesday Comedy Jam includes Stuart Taylor, Trevor Gumbi and Richelieu Beaunoir at Gold Reef City’s Lyric Theatre from 8pm. Tickets available at Computicket.