Meet Iain Thomas, the 36-year-old South African poet who is famous all over the world except in SA

Trevor Noah has pulled out at the last minute from hosting the MAMAs 2016, due to 'a severe upper respiratory infection'

Interview: Chris Forrest

2010-04-19 15:00

Q: Are you a fan of the BBC's brand of comedy?
A: I am. I actually grew up watching Monty Python and that kind of thing. Only Fools and Horses, those kinds of things. Stand-up wise I've always enjoyed the British take on things as well.

Q: You have a theory that cold weather and bad food makes you funnier (speaking of the British...). South Africans have warm weather and nice food. What makes us funny?
A: Julius Ma... No, uh... I'm not allowed to say that. In South Africa we've got quite a unique political climate; we've got real problems here. The British will do a comedy sketch about putting on a jersey or buying a duvet. I think we, as South African comics, should challenge ourselves more to write that kind of material. But it's just so easy [for us] when there's so much stuff going on and people are saying "Don't touch me on my studio".

Q: Tell us more about your involvement with the BBC Entertainment Comedy Festival.
A: I'll be intro-ing and outro-ing the shows each day. I'm the host essentially. We've filmed all the promos for the festival. I also got the privilege of seeing these shows before anyone else and I can guarantee you it's top-notch. It's absolutely brilliant. I was crying I was laughing so hard sometimes.

Q: Outrageous!, the film starring many of South Africa's best comics, came out this weekend. Why weren't you included in the all-star lineup?
A: I don't know!
Q: Do you feel snubbed?
A: No. I'd still like to see the film, I've heard it's very good. I suppose it's just the lineup that they chose. You can't have everyone in your film.

Q: As an honorary black on the "Blacks Only Show", do you think black comedians are funnier than white comedians?
A: No. In a lot of industries in South Africa you'll see affirmative action or in sport you'll see quota systems, but in comedy it's genuinely whoever's funny is funny.

Q: Do you think South African comics make an effort to be accessible to different audiences?
A: I think some do, some don't, but for me it's just natural. I don't really change what I do to suit a particular audience.

Q: Favourite comedian?
A: Eddie Izzard, Michael McIntyre, Jack Dee, Jimmy Carr... but this is like asking someone to choose between their favourite children. It's almost like listening to music. Sometimes you're in the mood for rock 'n roll, sometimes house... it just depends on what mood you're in.

Q: What's the worst response you've had from a crowd while on stage?
A: It was actually in London funnily enough. At a place called Up The Creek in Greenwich. It's quite notorious for being a kak room, but I went up there and I did it, and I was about halfway through my show and the guy shouted out "You're shit, mate!" and that was quite tough. The funny thing was, this was quite early on in my career. People told me I would do much better over in the UK than in South Africa. I did my first show and it went really well. So I had a huge head and I thought I was going to take the country by storm. But like I say, I bombed [after that].

I also did a show at a casino in the Free State many years ago. We were the entertainment. The MVG cardholders, the people with a gambling problem, had been given a free breakfast. They had starved themselves for three days because they knew they were getting a free breakfast, so we could have done anything and they wouldn't have listened to us. We did an hour-long show and nobody even looked up at us from their food.

Q:  Will you ever leave South Africa?
A: No. I live a good life. It's a cool country. Things have gotten better. Things are going, the economy's growing, we've got the World Cup happening. I'm not sure what we're going to do after that. Everything's football now. I'm not sure what people are going to talk about afterwards.

Q: Where do you draw inspiration from?
A: Day to day life, really. A lot of comics I know like to sit down and write stuff. I'm more a fan of hoping something comes to me from a weird situation, if you know what I mean.

*Interesting fact: Chris voices the dog for the current series of Toyota adverts on television. He can also be seen in the Nando's Mzansi Meal advert where he encourages the public to give polygamy a go.

Chris brings you the best of British comedy with the BBC Comedy Festival, every night at 9:30pm on BBC Entertainment (DStv 120). 

From the SABC to BBC, Chris knows how to do funny TV. That's why he's the host of BBC Entertainment's Comedy Festival. We caught up with this baaaad sheep.

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