Mojak Lehoko. Picture: Jo Spies

Mojak Lehoko’s stock is on the rise. His name and his face are becoming more recognisable with every passing month, as he continues to delve in several exciting projects.

His work as a writer in comedy recently earned him a win under the Comics’ Pen Award category at Saturday's Comics Choice Awards, where he beat out the likes of Lazola Gola, Karabo Lediga and Trevor Noah. 

Not only is he a writer and comedian, but he’s also an actor and voice-over artist.

Of this wide-ranging repertoire, I ask him if he has any preference. “I prefer them for different things,” he says. 

“Stand-up is immediate; if you make a joke and people laugh, then it works. If they stare at you blankly, you know that one needs some work. 
“Writing is cool because I also like working in isolation sometimes. And then acting is dope because you’re creating something that someone wrote and you’re giving it life. 

“Voice overs are maybe the weirdest because you’re just in a booth, people are in another room and they say random things to you, like: ‘Try to make it more funny, yet sad, with energy, but not too much energy so that it’s composed. Okay? Go.’ And then you’re just like okay I have no idea where to go here.”
While we’re together, he gets a call to come in and shoot some scenes on the Bantu Hour the following day. 

I ask if how he works on and memorises scripts on such short notice. 

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“I’ve been working with the guys; it’s just that I’ve been away for a while. So I’ve been out the loop. They’re short scenes, like three minutes tops, so it won’t be too crazy. If you fluff, it’s okay. They’re not too hectic. 

“You just improve, or whatever, but I just try to stick to the script as much as possible,” he says.

Lehoko hasn’t quite stuck by the script in tailoring a career in comedy. He started off as a student quantity surveyor in 2010, before gradually veering off into comedy, after finding he quickly lost interest in his job.

It was a decision that was challenging at first, but he gradually started making inroads into the industry. It wasn’t long before he started writing for the international Emmy-nominated satitical news show, Late Nite News, which he worked on for around five seasons.

Apart from Bantu Hour, Lehoko works on several different shows including celebrity game show called Woza Kleva, which he hosts.

He speaks with his typical laid back drawl, as he talks me through his “brutal” recent schedule at the Grahamstown Arts Festival. I got to see him perform there for the second year in a row and, like last year, his show was on the mark and excellent.

“I say to a lot of people: ‘The audience is a collection of people who are together for the first time every night. So you can’t have any idea of how they’ll respond. 

“We were recently away and played some clubs in New York. And that was different. Because they don’t have a point of reference you’ll be like, ‘Marmite’ and they’ll be confused. 

“They don’t have marmite in America. So that joke (was)automatically canned.”

He spent about 10 days in New York and he describes it as a really crazy city. He spent some time in Brooklyn and did a lot of comedy clubs around the city. 
Some gigs went well and other gigs, by Lehoko’s own description, left him feeling like, “Yoh. Let’s not tell anyone about this.”

His next challenge is to get more active on the “vernac circuit”, which he believes is the mainstream comedy circuit in South Africa. 

“The vernac guys are crushing it right now and, if anything, the English guys need to catch up. The game has totally changed and for the good also."

The transition into vernac has been a weird for him. Despite being Sesotho, he grew up speaking Zulu, but admits that he doesn’t really speak it as fluently as he’d like to. 

“In Joburg we don’t really speak Zulu Zulu, we speak Zulu lite,” he quips. “If it was a flavour, this would be the mildest version of it.”

Writing and doing stand-up comedy in the US is also one of his immediate targets. 

“I love South Africa, I love the people I work with, I love the content we’re creating, I just think I got a taste of it there and I want more.

“New York blew me away, I really loved the energy, the culture. That’s where I’d like to be at in the next couple of years. Touring and going oversees on a regular basis.”

Mojak Lehoko ... writer, stand-up comic performer: ‘I got a taste of New York and I want more.’