All jokes aside, comedy is a serious business. South Africa is still a politically correct society struggling to know when to laugh at racial stereotypes and when not to tweet racial slurs. As the co-creator and host of Late Nite News (LNN), Loyiso Gola is well aware that his satirical style of humour “has the power to raise very serious questions in the hope of becoming a catalyst to national debate”. A tall order, even for a man who stands around 1.96m. So it’s a good sign that LNN, which offers topical, often controversial, commentary on current events, is now in its fourth season. And to think the show might never have made it to air had it not been for Gola and his co- creator, Kagiso Lediga, bypassing commissioning editors to find decision-makers with “pop culture sensibility”.
It’s hard to say when 29-year-old Gola became a household name. He’s been honing his skills on stage since he was 19, when he won the Sprite Soul Comedy competition, and was already receiving critical praise for his roles on talk shows like Phat Joe Live and the Pure Monate Show. When he was invited to perform at the 2005 and 2006 Cape Town International Comedy Festival, he was still the youngest comic on the festival bill.
Gola admits that the stage is his first love, which is why, even with a hit show and a cult following, he travels the week performing stand-up and spends the weekends preparing for LNN. “I’ll still be doing stand-up in my 70s.” His audience also extends beyond South African shores. He has performed at the Royal Albert Hall and more recently in Lagos as one of the African Kings of Comedy. But when you ask about his career highlight, his passion for creating local content that resonates with local audiences makes the choice easy — Late Nite News.
— Cat Pritchard