Good humor requires good intellect. South African comedian Tats Nkonzo has an abundance of both. Popular in Johannesburg comedy clubs, Tats recently took his talents to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival with his show “The African With Wi-Fi.” Ayiba’s Akinyi Ochieng took a laugh break with Tats to learn about what makes the next big thing in South African comedy tick.


What makes you laugh?

Humans. And memes. But memes are humans in a picture with words on it. So, humans.

When did you first decide you wanted to pursue comedy full time?
When I got kicked out of a comedy competition, and then the producers called me back to be a guest performer in the finale of the TV show. I realized I had something different then.

What subjects are you most interested in discussing via comedy?
Anything that makes people say, “Hmmm… He may be right?” I enjoy poking and challenging mind sets.

Do you have a pre-show ritual?
My only ritual is empty pockets. I can’t have anything in my pockets when I perform.

In your most recent show, “The African With Wi-Fi,” what kinds of things did you talk about?
The goal of the show was to show the world that Africa is not what they think it is. And also that, the world is not what they think they are. And none had a leg to stand on in judging the other. It had a reconciliatory theme to it.

How does comedy fit into the broader project of nation building in South Africa?
A country that laughs together has less time to think about hating and killing each other. So comedy saves lives. At least for an hour or two.

How does your brand of comedy compare to someone like Trevor Noah, for example, one of South Africa’s rising comedic stars?
I do all Trevor Noah’s jokes when he’s not looking. And we have the same initials so I can do that. It’s a comedy rule.

How do audiences compare in Europe vs. Africa?
African audiences are physical in their response. They will show you, both in laughter and body movements, when they find you funny. European crowds are courteous. Quiet sometimes, even when they are having the time of their lives.