Of late the local comedy industry has been growing in leaps and bounds as public appreciation for the art grows, and local comedians begin to find their ground.
The year 2015 will probably be remembered as the best for local stand-up comedy. From competing at the President’s Day Competitions back in 2010 to shooting his own ‘One Man Show’ six years later, Phenyo ‘The Master’ Phaladi is one man who knows the journey too well.
The standing ovation he got while performing in Pretoria last year was just the motivation he needed. To get the audience on their feet while sharing the stage with the likes of SA’s Tall A$$ Mo and Chris Mapane is no small feat.
Having also performed in Mafikeng and Lesotho, Phenyo is definitely making his mark in the industry. Lifestyle caught up with the comedian to learn a thing or two about his upcoming ‘One Man Show’ DVD recording.
Looking rather cool in a blue golfie there is still something incredibly funny about his facial expressions. He is one of the few local comedians who possess the rare gift of getting the audience to explode into fits of laughter before he even opens his mouth. “Comedy is not a joke,” he says, looking like he means every word. “Not everyone can do it.”
But how does he? Like almost everyone else with a special talent, it all began when he was young and at school. The Molepolole born, Gaborone bred Mochudi native says he always managed to get people laughing when he was just trying to make normal conversations. “I was always surrounded by friends because somehow they just enjoyed hearing me speak,” Phenyo says, “which was easy because I also enjoy being around cheerful people.”
But it was only in 2010 that the 33 year old would start contemplating being a professional comedian. He entered the President’s Day Competitions the same year and got position three at regional level. The following year he tried again and only lost out at the national competitions, and it was then that Phenyo ‘The Master’ decided to follow his passion on a full time basis. “Following the 2011 competitions Major Moves Comedy took me under their wing and featured me at their many tours throughout the country.” He says it was through the company that he began to rediscover himself and refine his skills. The Master says doing comedy gives him a sense of purpose. “It reflects some level of unity and togetherness to see people laughing together. In today’s divided society that is something to cherish. We heal societies through our craft.” His sentiment echoes the words of one scholar who said, “A good joke does not divide us in its incongruity; it makes us laugh at how petty we can be concerning difference, and by seeing how we are in fact the same, can have monumental effects on all of us regardless of our sexuality, race, ethnicity, or gender.”
But easy as it seems Phenyo says being a comedian is no walk in the park. He says he used to get stage fright when he stepped onto the stage because “you just don’t know how the audience will react.” He insists “real comedians” are not challenged by the situation or type of audience. He says he got the standing ovation in Pretoria because he did his homework about what makes the people tick. “There is also a difference between being a comedian, a clown, and a story teller. People need to realise this.” Phenyo, who uses the vernacular, does not want his work to be classified as jokes. “I hate it when my material is labelled as such. It’s a product.” He says his comedy is not necessarily concerned with any particular field or aspect of life.
“I talk about anything and everything.” One of the risks about being a stand-up comedian has always been crossing the thin line between funny and offending. How does Phenyo avoid that? “Comedy is less about what you say than how you say it,” The Master explains, adding, “what you say should not rub people off the wrong way.” He however acknowledges the tight rope he walked when competing in the Presidents’ Day Competitions. “You had to be really careful what kind of humour you made about the president or his government lest you offend them. After all, it’s his competitions.” Phenyo is shooting his One Man Show DVD next Thursday, January 28, at Pavilion Restaurant (Fairgrounds Holdings).
“People always asked me what I was leaving behind for them following my performances around the country, so I decided to shoot this DVD as an answer to that question”. He says the show will feature three other comedians.