Comic’s diary full after landing sitcom gig
Let’s face it, the sitcom arena is yet to truly bloom in South Africa. It’s almost as if it took a break because in the ’90s shows like Going Up and Suburban Bliss were really good. Perhaps as comedian Skhumba explained, the local sitcom industry needs comics involved in the production process.
“If you are talking about sitcoms in South Africa, you will realise that most of them are not acted by comedians. Yet in places like the US, you get people like Martin Lawrence, Jamie Foxx and Damon Wayans all coming from a comedic background so the material is likely to be funny. In some cases the comedian is the director or the writer. Yet, here we have the problem of actors being cast in sitcoms and they then try to be funny. They try too hard and lose the plot. They think clowning around is being funny when that’s not the case,” he said.
This should make things interesting because the comedian forms part of the cast on the new SABC1 sitcom, Thandeka’s Diary.
“On Thandeka’s Diary, we are not trying to be funny. I am a comedian and there is Jay Boogie who is also one. It was easy for us to tell our fellow cast members when to avoid overdoing it. We know that what is funny is not how you say it, it’s what you say,” he said.
The sitcom comes from the people who brought us City Ses’la, Ses’top La, Abo Mzala and Samsokolo. While they are award-winning shows, they aren’t as good as their predecessors from the ’90s. But Thandeka’s Diary appears to have all the right ingredients. The show is about the struggles of 16-year-old Thandeka Zulu (Busisiwe Mtshali). She is studying in Joburg CBD and we see how she tries to make peace with fact that she is an outcast at school and at home.
“I play Thandeka’s father, a mechanic who is really good at acting like he’s always busy with something, when he is not. He complains about everything,” said Skhumba.
While he brings his comedic skills, Skhumba admits that neither he nor most of the cast have extensive TV experience.
“It’s my first big acting gig. I have done some shows before like Taxi Ride, which was directed by David Kau and appeared on Mzansi Magic. I have done a few commercials and other TV stuff, but this is one big break for me. When we first met at the first shoot, I saw faces that I had never seen before. Most of us haven’t done much on TV so it was exciting because everyone wanted to get it right.”
Given that he was head-hunted for the role, Skhumba feels he is the right man for the job.
“I met up with Mandla M about two years ago and he told me that he was working on something big that he wanted me to be a part of. I thought he was joking because he had this long face with an expression that I did not trust, but two-and-a-half years later he called me and we began working,” he said.
• Thandeka’s Diary airs on Mondays at 7.30pm on SABC1.