‘I never had a specific model I wanted,” Skhumba Hlophe tells me as we start our interview. “All I wanted was to drive a BMW. But guess what?” He pauses and, as I am about to respond with “what?” he continues: “I still haven’t driven one that is my own.”
“Why not?” I ask the actor and insanely popular stand-up comedian whose one-man shows all over the country are consistently sold out. “Budget,” he says and sighs. Thankfully, as the co-host of Change Down – a new car show on Mzansi Magic – he doesn’t have to own the car to get behind the wheel.
The show, which he hosts alongside Boity Thulo, is all about the love of cars. The pair get to visit various petrol heads around the country – they can be from the ’burbs or from ekasi. Viewers also get to see South African celebs racing some pretty fast cars.
I ask Skhumba – as he is known – why he wanted to be involved with Change Down. “They told me Boity was involved and I said okaaaaaay,” he laughs raucously.
“It’s really fun presenting this show,” he says. “The only down side is waking up early in the morning and then shooting for 14 hours a day. It’s a lot, but I enjoy it, mostly. I get to drive all these big cars. I’ve always wanted to drive a BMW and there’s an episode where I’m driving a 330 Diesel! There are opportunities to drive Maseratis! Tjo.”
“I’m joking. I’ve worked with Mandla N – who is the director – before,” he continues. “We worked on Thandeka’s Diary together and he’s a really cool guy. I see him as the Tyler Perry of South Africa. This guy is really moving forward and if he says: ‘Come, let’s work,’ then I know he understands me and will let me be me. I thought: ‘Let’s try this presenting thing and just see.’”
Boity Thulo and Skhumba Hlophe host Change Down. Picture: Supplied
So far, Skhumba says he’s been having a blast. Except for one tiny snag.
Speaking of top-of-the-range cars, I remind him that his co-host, Thulo, is an #AMGGirl. As such, does he get intimidated by her big body Benz?
“No, I don’t succumb to pressure at this point of my life,” he admits. “That’s her AMG. I do Skhumba the best way I know how.”
I ask Skhumba if he’s noticed any differences between car lovers in the ’hood and those in the ’burbs.
“There are huge differences,” he exclaims. “For instance, people who live in the suburbs go to the garage to pour a full tank of petrol. We in the ’hood don’t have time for that. That’s the least of our problems. We just want to get from point A to point B.
“The suburbans want their cars to go in for a service when it is required, while for us, our service is basically Bhut’ Boy. There’s nothing Bhut’ Boy doesn’t know about cars!”
And when it comes to racing celebrities, Skhumba has his own agenda.
“I’d love to race against Cassper Nyovest so we can drive BMWs together,” he starts. But that’s not all. “I’d also love to race him and ask him a few questions while he’s driving. Like: what went wrong? What happened with his relationship with Boity. Yes, I want to ask him that while he is driving,” he laughs.
It’s clear that while this is a job to Skhumba, he also makes it interesting for himself. It also helps that the funnyman brings his brand of relatable humour to the show.
*Change Down airs on Mzansi Magic (DStv Channel 161) every Monday at 7pm.