South African stand-up Loyiso Gola heading to Cambridge
Hot on the heels of his acclaimed Netflix hour-long special, Unlearning, South African comedian Loyiso Gola is set to stop off at The Junction on Saturday, October 30, the penultimate date of a UK tour.
“It’s just a show about how, subliminally, pop culture is intertwined in our lives,” explains the star, speaking to the Cambridge Independent from London, where he’s been for about six weeks.
One of the subjects addressed in Pop Culture is the music of Michael Jackson and how Loyiso, a huge fan of the King of Pop, has been told to ‘cancel’ the singer from his iTunes playlist. “That’s just one of the things I touch on,” says the comic, who is a household name in his homeland thanks to 12 seasons of his satirical news show Late Nite News.
“It’s about what does that actually mean? How does not listening to Michael Jackson’s music help anything? He’s one of the greatest musicians of our time and you’re telling me I cannot listen to that music?! That’s a crazy request.”
So is it time to cancel the ‘cancel culture’? “I think you have to look at cases in isolation; I think every case is different, every action is different, every issue pertains to its own particular... You can’t just wave a magic wand and that is applicable to everything. The ‘cancel’ really means nothing at the end of the day – it’s just a consequence.”
Does Loyiso, who has appeared on television programmes such as 8 Out of 10 Cats, Mock the Week and QI, ever worry that some of his material may lead to him being ‘cancelled’? “No, not really,” he says. “I just try to say what I’m thinking and try to make it as funny as possible, but I don’t really try to avoid topics, per se.”
The double Emmy Award-nominated comedian says it’s simple. If people like his particular brand of comedy, then they should go and see him – and if they’re not a fan of it, then don’t attend one of his shows. “I don’t think that’s even a comedy thing, it’s a life thing,” he suggests.
“Similarly, if you don’t like a particular type of crisps, don’t buy them. You can’t go to the place where those crisps exist and then complain that those are not your favourite crisps – that doesn’t make sense.”
Loyiso spent lockdown in Johannesburg and says he has missed live performances, but not so much touring, noting that he enjoys “being in one place for a long time”. During his career, he has also branched out into acting, appearing in the film Catching Feelings – which premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival – and 50 Cent’s sketch comedy television show, 50 Central.
Despite this, Loyiso has little interest in pursuing the medium. “I just want to do stand-up really,” he says. “The thing I don’t like about acting is the auditions. Because of the Netflix special, some people have asked me to audition for things, for particular roles and characters...
“I don’t really want to get into acting because it’s auditioning and I don’t want to spend my time doing a thing I don’t care about that much. I can dabble in it but I don’t really want to invest a lot of my time.”
Loyiso grew up during the final years of apartheid in South Africa and his witty observational humour on aspects of the subject seems to go down extremely well with older audiences (check out his very amusing Live at the Apollo set on YouTube) – though it may seem shocking to younger people who are perhaps less familiar with that history.
“I just talk about what’s true to me,” says Loyiso. “I don’t know, I think people don’t really know the contemporary story about apartheid and that kind of stuff. I think it would be interesting – maybe that’s why I talk about it, but it’s also my story.
“I was born in ’83 and that was a very turbulent time in South Africa... So I can only be honest about my understanding of the world, and how people compute it and understand it is totally up to them. Comedy is quite a subjective art so some people are going to be like, ‘This is a bit weird’ – but I can only tell them what I think I should tell them.”
Loyiso has appeared at events all over the world, including the Moontower Festival in Austin, Texas, Melbourne’s International Comedy Festival and Finland’s Kuopio Comedy Festival. Unlearning was recorded in Cape Town in December and released earlier this year.
He also performed a run of Unlearning at the Soho Playhouse in New York and the Soho Theatre in London. His first US comedy special, Loyiso Gola: Live in New York, was released exclusively by Vimeo.
Loyiso Gola will be appearing at The Junction’s J2 on Saturday, October 30 at 8pm. Tickets are £17 in advance. Visit junction.co.uk.