Get to know the comedian Skhumba
Skhumbuzo Hlophe, most commonly known by his stage name of Skhumba, is no newcomer to the South African stage. His career beginnings can be traced back to a stage in his hometown of Tembisa, Ekurhuleni, where he performed to an audience so small, it would have deterred many. He’s come a long way from those days. He’s repeatedly played the biggest comedy show, had a lead role on a sitcom and has a rapt audience on Kaya’s very own “180 With Bob’ every Friday. With his first one-man show set to electrify Jozi in November we got together with Skhumba and asked, jokes aside, who is Skhumba? Here’s what he had to say.
Who is Skhmbuzo Hlophe?
Skhumba is just a simple guy from Tembisa — born, bred and buttered in Tembisa. That guy from ekasi, nothing more, nothing less.
Fill us in a little on your background. Are you the funniest person in your family?
I’m the first professional comedian at home but I’ve always been surrounded by funny people. My grandmother is the funniest person I’ve ever met. I can’t drive with her in the car because everything she says puts us at a risk of an accident. She’s now also at the age where she just speaks her mind without much of a filter for feelings. My uncle is also very funny. He’s not telling jokes, it’s just who he is.
Your first show was for a tiny audience. Tell us more about that experience and what kept you going after that.
I started comedy about nine years ago at Caprivi in Tembisa. It was an audience of less than 20 people — most of them worked there. The first gig was Toll A$$ Mo and I. We did the next show, which had close to 50 people in the audience and we kept at it because we believed in what we were doing.
What did you do while your comedy career was at its infancy? How did you eat?
I work in human resources for a government department, but the streets are calling.
When and how did “Blacks Only” come about?
David Kau is the only person who’s done more “Blacks Only” shows than me. I think I’ve done 13 “Blacks Only” shows and headlined 11 of them. How it came about is David Kau saw me on TV and called me up. I wasn’t even supposed to be on that TV show. When David and I met he offered to guide me in my career, and I’m thankful to him.
You always insist that being on stage, being on the radio (Fridays, 08h00 – 09h00 180 With Bob,) being on TV…all of it, is just your job. What brought that attitude about?
I’m at work. I never set out to be famous but what I do makes people recognise me. I don’t view that recognition as fame, I’m just like everyone who works. I have a family depending on me to put bread on the table. I have to be constantly good at what I do.
In 2014 you made your scripted TV debut, how did it come about? Is TV in your future?
I met up with Mandla N who is the director of Thandeka’s Diary two years prior to us making the show. I was performing and he came up to me afterwards and told me he was making something he wanted me to be a part of. He said he’d call me and I thought he’d phone the following week. He only phoned two years after our initial meeting, he told me it was coming together.
I didn’t have to audition and I delivered. It was the first instance (locally) where the lead role was played by a comedian. They always get actors to act funny and act the jokes. They can act funny but most of them aren’t funny at their core. Sometimes you can tell when they’re trying hard to be funny.
I have quite a few television-related projects in the pipeline. Watch this space, I’m going to be on your TV for the next five years.
President Zuma — or “Daddy” as you call him — makes up a big part of your stand up. What would you say or ask him if you met?
I call him Daddy because he’s the nation’s father. I like to think my jokes are not offensive to him; I like to think he likes them. I definitely wouldn’t ask him about his family or scandals. We would just chat like two guys.
Tell us about your first one-man show. Why is the time finally right after nine years?
I have great support in both my life and career. The people around me really believe that I can do everything I set my heart to and the support means the world. But sometimes they don’t believe I can do things my way.
I’ve known about my one-man show for five years, every moment has been leading to this. I just wasn’t ready five years ago. I have a wonderful platform here on Kaya, being here has reinforced the belief that we can do anything as black people. This environment has challenged me, I wouldn’t have been satisfied with a show with just 100 people when I can do a show with 6, 000 people in the audience.
*Catch Skhumba on “180 With Bob” every Friday morning or his one man show on the 6th and 7th November at Gold Reef City.