Cape Argus

Siv races to top of the comedy tree


E’S BLACK and he can swim. This is something that comedian Siv Ngesi ( pictured) relishes. The self-taught 26-year-old pokes fun at just about everything race-laced, and is famous for his routines playing on the stereotype of blacks who can’t swim.

Ngesi believes his taste for this genre is what many people pay to hear and what “puts bums on seats”.

And it seems it’s a winning formula as DeKaf, his last one-man comedy show, took the Golden Ovation award for best comedy at the 2010 National Arts Festival.

His latest offering, Race Card (based on Simon Kilpatrick’s book, The Racist’s Guide to the People of South Africa), which enjoyed a sellout run at this year’s festival, will be hitting theatres countrywid­e.

After happening upon the book in an airport lounge during a flight delay, Ngesi knew it would translate well to the stage. The show was co-written with director Brent Palmer, who has directed all of Nik Rabinowitz’s comedy shows over the past seven years, including Stand and Deliver, which goes to the Cape Town Inernation­al Convention Centre next month.

Ngesi says he speaks about race from experience. “I was raised in Gugulethu but moved to Pinelands in 1995 just a few months after the elections. Just seeing those two extremes – from living in a black to a white area – I feel like I’m those ‘outside eyes’.

“I feel it’s my genre, a genre that I do with respect. I don’t pick sides, I’m just a South African. I feel like I’m a referee and I call it the way I see it.”

One of two black children in his primary class, he says racism wasn’t an issue as a child, as younger children are oblivious to such


“I’ve experience­d racism and classism. I see a lot of racism and some people just turn a blind eye to it. If you don’t see it, you’re closing your eyes to it. When you see racism you don’t attack the race, you attack the person.”

When he’s off stage he’s on set, most notably for his lead roles in TV series such as League of Glory or Kululeka. He can tick off starring alongside Keifer Sutherland and Jon Voight in the movie version of 24, too. And he stars in Paul Speirs’ new film, Copposites, a South African comedy about body-swopping featuring Rob van Vuuren.

Through all the race talk, does he think his skin colour propels his career? “Being black, I think I can say some things that other people can’t. I throw out two k-words here and there and it works. I feel like I’ve gotten away with murder,” he chuckles.

“Being black does help but I think if I was white, I’d still be here too because of my talent.”

So are his so-called black roots forgotten? “I go to Gugs every Monday to get my car washed and I’m at Mzoli’s every weekend. You can’t grow if you forget your roots.”

Ngesi’s show runs just before Trevor Noah’s That’s Racist, which also deals with the issue of race, at the Baxter. “Trevor’s huge, he can do whatever he wants. He knows it works, I know it works,” he grins.

The national tour of Race Card starts at the Baxter Golden Arrow Studio Theatre in Cape Town from October 1-13. Performanc­es are Monday to Saturday at 8.15pm; tickets cost R80 from Computicke­t. Ngesi will also perform at Lemon Tree Theatre, Rocking the Daisies Festival, from October 4 to 7 in Darling. Weekend passes: R600 per person.

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