During a press junket to publicise Netflix’s Comedians of the World, the streaming service put the South African comedians who appear in the show in different rooms at a conference centre.
Riaad Moosa sat in a huge room with big windows. Everything about the decor was glittering, busy and extra.
But the comedian was what was the most centred in the room.
He spoke slowly and calmly. By the time we stopped speaking about wellness and exercises that help with memory, I remembered why he is one of the most sought-after talents in the country.
Moosa is able to calmly make things that don’t seem connected come together, with hilarious results.
It shows in his episode in Comedians of the World, where the father of four tackles racism, in-flight banter, his parents’ hard work and Cosby among other topics.
Along with Tumi Morake, Loyiso Gola and Loyiso Madinga, Moosa is one of a contingent of just under 50 comedians from various parts of the world who have been tasked with representing their countries on the map of funny.
“I just try to make sure the product I offer is good,” he tells me.
“I got the opportunity to do this Netflix special and you know my life is crazy because I’m overpopulating the Earth. I had to perform in front of an audience I don’t know in Montreal.
“I performed there a few years ago with Loyiso Gola and I never connected with that audience because of my accent so they didn’t know how to contextualise an English-speaking person who makes people feel like they still need subtitles.
“They understood my impersonations better than they understood me!”
The sense of paranoia about how the audience would receive him this time made Moosa nervous. So nervous that he opens his set with a gag about accents just so he can get that out of the way.
“I did that first and once I did it, I knew it had grabbed people,” he recalls.
“Then I did material about my parents being the first group of brown doctors allowed into UCT Medical school. That’s hard material.
“I wanted to say things that were difficult because even if they bomb, I’ll learn a lot from them. I thought: ‘Let’s mess up as much as possible here so I can learn and go do better.’ But I really felt I connected with that audience this time around.”
It’s important to the real-life doctor, who has made a name for himself as a comedian, to do work that allows him to grow. He remembers his varsity days.
“I found comedy after fourth-year medicine and all of a sudden, I’m busy with David Kau and Kagiso Lediga. And very soon after that, we did the Pure Monate Show.”
He grins, then says: “I wanted to be a doctor but also wanted to be there, so I always had to rein myself in. And I did it because I wanted to grow. That’s all I wanted.”
Catch Riaad Moosa on Netflix’s Comedians of the World.