Durban — His jokes are not cheesy and he never butchers a punchline. Instead, Napoleon Masinga (aka Napsta) has cooked up a new genre of comedy – vegan comedy.
“I’m new to this (veganism) and so there’s a lot of things that make me nervous but I think the beauty of this comedy special is just the truism of an African man trying to navigate uncharted territory.”
Also known as the king of Christian comedy, Napsta who started out in the world of advertising before branching into comedy, has embarked on a worldwide comedy tour with his show, The Black Vegan, based on his hilarious experiences of giving up meat.
“I just like the idea of putting vegans and non-vegans in the room and having honest conversations, and then adding a layer of people of colour. As people of colour, meat is centred on so many of our traditions. We slaughter, now must we be slaughtering pumpkins?” he jokes.
In recent years there’s been an explosion of people switching to a vegan diet (cutting out everything of animal origin, even honey) and the reasons vary from religious to health or even anti-cruelty.
Napsta, as he is known to his friends, says his light bulb moment came while watching a documentary three years ago and he instantly went cold turkey; from a meat lover to a vegan.
“I made the mistake of watching Netflix. This documentary freaked me out and the very next day, I decided to give up meat, blindly so,” said Napsta.
And then he recruited his mom, who is a professional cook, and his sister to join him on his vegan journey. They stayed the course for three months.
“I’m not only impulsive, but I’m also a great evangelist, so when I start new things, I have this bad tendency of recruiting people. So, the two people that fell victim to my lifestyle were my mom and my sister. And that was quite impressive,” said Napsta.
However, his brothers were having none of that and kept on waving their lamb chops in his face.
Napsta says the health benefits of switching to a meat-free diet came quickly.
He found that his digestion improved and he wasn’t bloated after a meal. His skin looked healthier and lighter, and while it took about two hours for a meaty meal to digest before he could get to sleep, on a vegan diet, he could hit the sack 30 minutes after a meal.
Napsta says being vegan requires creativity and that conscious eating means “you must apply your brain”.
However, Napsta’s dietary change left many in his Soweto neighbourhood perplexed. Once, he took his camera onto the streets to canvas views on whether people would give up meat.
“Are you mad?” or “never” was the common response. People were outraged because “meat is deep for African people”, he said.
“There’s probably a handful of vegans in Soweto, not because they don’t want to, but because of the (lack of) exposure,” said Napsta.
He says apart from slaughtering animals for traditional ceremonies, coming from disadvantaged backgrounds meant that many people “idolised” meat, it was enjoyed only once a week, and it was something to look forward to on a Sunday.
Some would even say: “I’ve been working all my life, so that I can afford meat,” he laughed.
Apart from cracking jokes and sharing his hilarious struggles of being a black vegan, it’s also a chance to highlight some of the benefits he has seen since cutting meat from his diet.
However, Napsta says he is not a “conscious vegan” and hasn’t swopped his leather belt for non-animal alternatives, but it is everyone’s duty to protect the Earth and be environmentally conscious in whatever capacity they can.
“I’m not at the place where I’m saying I will not touch a fork that was used to stir eggs and I will not wear leather shoes.”
He says that having a balanced approach opens the space for conversation.
And after three years the struggle to be vegan is real.
“I find myself in some entanglements with meat. I still have nightmares of lamb chops chasing me, you know, and sometimes, you just can’t find a vegan restaurant, so it’s like real,” said Napsta.
Apart from lots of fun and a chance to have a good time, he hopes the comedy show will encourage people to make simple, healthy changes to their diets like grilling instead of frying their food and having a sober approach to alcohol consumption.
Independent on Saturday