Imagine if Celeste Ntuli had to title the new chapter in her life. First, it would probably end up being an entire book. Second, it would be called something like: The Evolution of Celeste. The much loved stand-up comedian and actress brings her one-person show, Black Tax, to Silverstar Casino on Saturday.
Fresh off a run in her home town of Durban, Ntuli has grown from a funny girl who wanted to be a social worker to a household name who put one of the biggest television shows, Isibaya, on hold so she could hone her comedy craft.
She debuted Black Tax last year and confirmed eight dates so far this year. The show has changed from when she first toured with it.
“You know how art imitates life?” she asks me. “That has become the case with Black Tax because my brother is a part of the show in a very nice and surprising way. There’s an element of music to my comedy.”
Now that she has established herself as an international comedian who, at Nigerian comedian and actor Basketmouth’s invitation, will be gracing Nigerian stages next month, I ask Ntuli if she feels like she has to give different versions of herself to each show. Or does she bring this new, evolving self to her home town too?
“There is a difference,” she says. “I grew up in KZN and I know my people. They want me to remain the way they know me. When I go back home, I pay homage. But I’ve found that I grew at some point and see things differently. That comes from doing a lot of work inside and outside of the country.
“You have to know that certain jokes won’t go down so well in different places. Language is a big factor. There are jokes I can translate into English and they work perfectly in Joburg. But I know in Durban, I have to do those same jokes in Zulu.”
Ntuli manages an elusive task in an industry often driven by fame: She remains true to herself.
“I love sharing my views. When I state my point of view, people laugh and I’m like: ‘But that’s what I think.’ My sister always says: ‘Just record yourself right now.’ She’ll wake up and tell me: ‘Do you remember what you said last night? It was hilarious!’ (Comedian) David Kau always says I must just take a camera and record myself.”
Why doesn’t she have her own reality show?
“They’ve tried to offer me one, but I need to take care of my career. There are a lot of thin lines in this industry.
“If you have your art, then why do a reality show? People who are there as social influencers and it girls can do it. But you have to know where you belong. That’s a line that has been blurred. I’ve come to understand my journey. Life says: ‘Understand yourself, love yourself and just chill’.”
“I wanted to be a social worker when I was growing up and have come full circle. I’m interested in people and what makes them do what they do. As humans, we behave as though we are the last ones to be here. How are you contributing positively, especially once you have a platform?
“There’s no value in having a million followers because you’re naked and only 100 because you’re a positive person. You could use your platform to make a positive change. I’ve accepted that I’ve grown and want to talk about these things.”
So what we’re seeing is the evolution of Celeste Ntuli?
“You’re seeing the evolution of Celeste, but that’s what makes me nervous. People want you to stay the same, but I need to grow.”
* Catch Celeste Ntuli’s Black Tax at Silverstar Casino on August 5. Book at silverstarcasino.co.za