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September is turning into a great month for comedians Tsitsi Chiumya and Phil De Lange. Not only did Tsitsi win Best Newcomer and Phil the Next Level prize at this weekend’s Comics’ Choice Awards, both comedians are featured in Trevor Noah Presents NationWild, a 13-part comedy showcase first and only Showmax.
Trevor handpicked all 13 comedians featured. Each episode features a short introductory set by Trevor as the host, an interview with the featured comedian about their ladder to success, followed by that comedian’s set.
“In each episode, we’re going to meet some of the brightest emerging comedians in Mzansi,” says Trevor.
This year’s Comics’ Choice Awards back up that claim: to win Best Newcomer, Tsitsi beat out three other comedians featured on Trevor Noah Presents NationWild: Bongani Dube, Gilli Apter and Lindy Johnson, while one of Phil’s primary challenges for the Next Level award came from Eric Jansen, who is also featured on the show.
This is the second major award this year for Tsitsi: he also won a SAFTA for Scriptwriting – TV Comedy as part of the Puppet Nation team.
The comedian hails from Lebowakgomo, a small township in Limpopo. He only officially learned English in 2006 when he came to Johannesburg. “I went to the only English school in Lebowakgomo; we spoke really bad English there,” says Tsitsi. “I thought I knew what English was before I came to Johannesburg, which was really embarrassing, because I had so much confidence. I’m a pretty awkward guy so it was really weird for me to start learning English, especially when you come to the big city and you always thought that you would fit in, and then you can’t speak the language that people are using to communicate… From not being able to speak English, to the point that I’m performing with one of the biggest comics in the world, in English, it confirms to me that I’ve conquered this language.”
Phil was born and bred in Bloemfontein but now lives in Cape Town, where he co-hosts The Smile 90.4FM Comedy Hour between 9 and 10 pm on Saturday evenings with Angel Campey. His dry, self-deprecating comedy set blends stand-up and ukulele.
“My first comedy set I ever did was at the Armchair Theatre in Cape Town,” remembers Phil. “I was the first person I think in Cape Town to ever perform comedy with a ukulele. People laughed at me, not at my jokes, because my mic kept falling out of the mic stand and I broke my ukulele on stage. I was quite terrible to be honest.”
Getting handpicked by Trevor Noah and winning the Next Level award are proof of how much that’s changed. “I don’t actually like attention at all,” says Phil, but he may need to get used to it quickly.
Considering that Trevor’s already given fellow African comedians like David Kibuuka and Loyiso Madinga regular work on The Daily Show, anything’s possible for Phil, Tsitsi and the other stars of Trevor Noah Presents NationWild, who include Gavin Kelly, Keenan Cerff, Kraai Du Toit, Mbu Msongwela, 2017 Best Intermediate Comics’ Choice Award nominees Noko Moswete and Tshireletso ‘Mo’ Mothebe, and 2016 Comics’ Choice Breakthrough Comic Award winner Virgil Prins (aka Prins).
Trevor is in line for awards himself this month: on 17 September 2018, he could become the first black host to ever win an Emmy for Best Variety Talk Series for The Daily Show.
“Trevor Noah’s global success proves that SA’s comics are among the best in the world,” says Candice Fangueiro, head of content at Showmax. “We’ve worked hard to make Showmax the home of South African comedy, so we’re delighted to add Trevor Noah presents NationWild to our lineup of hilarious shows, which includes The Roast of Somizi and comedy specials with the likes of 2018 Comics’ Choice Comedy G award winner David Kau and nominees like Marc Lottering and Mpho Popps.”
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