Funny man brings out the laughter

Jive Funny Champs winner, Nkosinathi Maki

Sure, everyone’s a comedian, until he or she walks up on stage.

Lucky for Gugulethu funnyman, Nkosinathi Maki, 39, he’s the real deal.

Cool, calm and collected, Maki had the crowd in stitches and convinced the judges he has what it takes to bamba with the big boys at the Jive Cape Town Funny Festival, which runs at the Baxter until Sunday July 3.

But first, he was up against six other finalists from across the city who had made it through the qualifying rounds of the Jive Funny Championships, an off-shoot of the main festival, which kicked off on Monday June 6.

He had his work cut out at Canal Walk on Saturday, where the contestants faced off in a do-or-die battle to be the last man (or woman) standing and a chance to earn a spot on the line up at this year’s Funny Festival.

This was where the funny business got serious as all of the contestants brought their A-game, no jokes, trying to woo the audience and to impress the judges, made up of theatre legend David Kramer and comedy heavyweights, Nik Rabinowitz and Kagiso “KG” Mokgadi.

Although relatively new to the comedy scene, Maki has been doing his thing since 2011 when friends dared him to give it a shot while chilling at a spot in Obz.

Originally from New Brighton, in Port Elizabeth, now Gqeberha, he’s been polishing his act ever since and won the Standard Bank ovation award for the best solo show at the national Arts Festival in 2019, a year after establishing the Nelson Mandela Bay Comedy Festival in 2018.

However, with three unsuccessful attempts at winning the title, the Jive Funny Championships has always been a tough nut to crack.

“I guess it’s third time lucky,” he said. “The strategy was simple, I must be undeniable.”

Of course, no one could deny him a spot on the podium, not after his hilarious tale of the many uses of a South African favourite, the one on which generations were raised on, that trusty tin of Zam-Buk ointment.

Festival director Eddy Cassar said he was happy to see the standard of the production value of the championships raised significantly and that it continues to offer upcoming-stand-up comedians the opportunity to perform at a proper theatre.

“The standard is always very high. Many artists see what Marc Lottering, Alan Committie, Nik Rabinowitz and others have done in the industry and want to emulate them,” said Cassar, who established the festival in 1997.

“The championships were started 10 years ago specifically to find new comedic talent. The underground comedy movement is small but active. The championships give them a chance to shine and for the winner to be exposed to the public and play on a large stage with international talent,” he said.

Funny Champs organiser, Yaaseen Barnes, himself once a once bushy-tailed wannabe comic, won the competition in 2014 which helped to launch his career.

And much like Maki will now have the opportunity to do, Barnes also got to perform alongside some of the big names on the comedy circuit.

“This competition is very close to my heart as it was the stepping stone for my own career and now I get to be part of the opportunity for someone else,” he said.

It was a case of someone giving me the opportunity to start standup, let me now create the platform for someone else to start,” said Barnes, who has been running comedy gigs across the city for a number of years.

Catch Nkosinathi Maki at the Jive Cape Town Comedy Festival at the Baxter until Sunday July 3.

Cape Community Newspapers, which publishes this newspaper, is the festival’s official print media partner.

Jive Funny Champs organiser Yaaseen Barnes, left, and winner Nkosinathi Maki.
Nkosinathi Maki
Nkosinathi Maki