We Interview South Africa’s Philosophical Comedian Tats Nkonzo


We all know him from So You Think You’re Funny and Idols; Tats Nkonzo, a funny guitarist who used to be an account executive at The Jupiter Drawing Room advertising agency. Needless to say that creativity is first, second and third nature to this natural entertainer – his main domain. No surprises there as this comedian is a singer, presenter and is also looking to go into film in the future.

tats nkonzo

It is varsity, AAA, which shaped to a large degree how Mthawelanga Nkonzo thinks and handles all that he does. It was during his gap year from working that he realised that he wanted to be a professional comedian. He was called back for the final of SYTYF to be a guest performer. “It’s at that moment that I thought, maybe I’ve got something different”, says Nkonzo.

Believe it or not, Tats Nkonzo’s first comedy show was on So You Think You’re Funny. It was only then that he discovered and started his journey into the world of comedy. “My first comedy performances were in front of millions of people on TV,” Nkonzo proclaims as he sips on his drink. It was only after his big debut that he got into the real world of comedy made up of comedy clubs.

Because comedy is such a personal thing and is a journey of self-discovery, his aspiration is to find his own voice. Nkonzo explains, “All the big guys you watch, they have found their own point of view, and so you want to do that as well.” He is a man who has no interest in mimicking anyone ever because as soon as you copy another artist, you set yourself years back.

With Tats Nkonzo being one of the best comedians in South Africa, and is certainly on the rise in the international scene, he regards honesty as the main attribute that makes a great comedian. “People know when you lying, people know you’re struggling; people know when you’re thinking; people know when you don’t know what you doing” he emphasizes. He compares comedy to a date- there is a lot of give and take. He compares comedy to music too – and just like music – one cannot miss a beat as even the silent parts reign as much power as the melody itself.

tats nkonzo

Tats is a man who goes where no other person dares even think about- dives right into what we may perceive as unorthodox. He truly enjoys walking the dangerous line of funny and too far (with little consideration to the latter).

As an observational comedian, it has become quite clear to Nkonzo that (unfortunately) in South Africa comedy is not seen as mainstream entertainment (yet). “There are a lot of great acts with no place to go to perform. More comedians, less stages”, he expresses regrettably. He explains that it is unfortunate that people have international expectations, underestimating local acts. The only way to overcome this biased way of thinking is for people to see the act – that is the true test of comedy.

A philosophical comedian with a real depth (width and length) to him, Tats Nkonzo hopes to teach others in the art of entertainment- whether it be comedy, singing or presenting. “How that will play out, I’m not sure. But I’m big on developing and guiding”, he sincerely says. A selfless gesture from a self-made man.

tats nkonzo

His advice for up-and-coming, just-started-out, or I-just-realised-I-want-to-be-a-comedian comedians? Have a self-grading. That is it. Encouraging everyone to know the standard and to measure oneself objectively against it. He advices to meet the standard- AT LEAST- and then you are in the game. To not just do something to try, just playing around with it. Take it seriously. Tats Nkonzo voices out passionately, “there is nothing that is just nje. Nothing is just doable- everything is work.” Know the standard- meet the standard- then exceed the standard.

An entertainer that is well on his way to world domination. “I’ve been on my way since the first gig. Anyone who has begun is on his or her way. It’s just a matter of how fast and what route,” he urges strongly. And the second you commit to it to (your dream that is), you are also well on your way to world domination (cue evil laugh accompanied by dramatic hand gestures, with theatrical thunder and lighting in the background).

Tats Nkonzo describes his days on Idols as “the fun days”. He had just arrived in the city of gold with big dreams and bright eyes, and was trying his hand at all things artistic and entertainment. “It was great. First experience of being with everyone who wants to make it. You realise that it’s not just you. It helped me realise that I am one of millions,” says Nkonzo. It was then that he had to find a way to be the pink cow as standing out of the endless sea of people is the way to really get noticed. As he progressed in the competition, he grew more and more confident in his abilities and learned that he has the raw material to make it. He describes as going through the experience sober and solemn minded and deeply attuned to his feelings and surroundings.

Photo Credit: Tebogo Mathodlana

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