Lessons, laughter from Mojak Lehoko

I just came back from a live comedy show and I’m buzzing – even though it didn’t involve stage time.

Tonight I watched Mojak Lehoko in action. Razor-sharp wit, calm stage demeanour and a genuinely entertaining 70 odd minutes in his special How Did I Get Here?

Staged at the POPArt Theatre in Joburg’s Maboneng Precinct (same venue as the Comedy Central journey last year), this show was – in my eyes – a concoction of inspiration, skill and insight into the craft of comedy.

The last time I had seen Mojak perform properly was way back in 2009, just as my own journey was starting out. He, along with Mpho Popps (whose career has also hit new heights) and Chris Mapane (another comedy gem) made an impression back then and he’s come far. Really far.

No surprise, seeing as though he’s spent all these years in what I like to call SA’s Champions League of comedy – Johannesburg.

Mastery: Mojak Lehoko’s stand-up special is exemplary for so many of SA’s emerging comedians. Pic: whatson.co.za

I arrived at the theatre about half an hour before the slated 20:00 start time and memories from last year came flooding back: the nervous pacing before the first round at Comedy Central, the mental scramble in the build-up to the finals a few weeks later.

Some of Mojak’s comedian mates were in attendance – Laz Gola, Robby Collins and Loyiso Madinga (names and careers I’ve followed from afar for quite a while).

The show itself didn’t disappoint. Mojak’s conversational tone, coupled with his observations on everything from Muvhango subtitles to SA’s car guards, was a feast of well-written and superbly delivered material. Nothing simple in structure, nothing lazy in approach.

He took no shortcuts just to get the laughs – I could only imagine how much working and reworking this could have taken. Also impressive was his willingness to divert totally from script and use either audience interaction or an improvised moment to launch into material which veered off narrative.

Then he would eventually guide the story back to where he might have left it off.

In terms of feel, there were shades of Dave Chappelle  – not in an imitation sense, but more in the quirky observational style as well a tendency to inject the funniest of afterthoughts to his arsenal of punchlines.

But, of course, the material was all Mojak. And as he weaved from topic to topic, we kept abreast in regular, responsive roars of laughter.

A real privelege. A fantastic benchmark.

Mojak juggles quite a few hats at the moment. His comedy is taking him to interesting places – he’s travelled to the Edinburgh Fringe with SA comedy giant Trevor Noah and he’ll take his special to Cape Town soon.

He also writes for and stars in Late Nite News (LNN) with Loyiso Gola, the country’s foremost political/news satire TV show. His work earned him an Emmy Award nomination as part of their writing team.

A fantastic way to keep the finger on the pulse of SA Comedy. I’ll keep you in the loop of developments on the personal front.

Stay tuned…

– Tyson

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