Tumi Morake Interview

SA comedian Tumi, 36, on family jokes, her future plans, and what matters most in life

One of the earliest challenges that I faced as a child was when my father was incarcerated for treason during apartheid. I was only six years old and the nuclear family life that I had known came to an end. The days of my father dancing with us or stealing kisses from my mother were over; it was the last time I lived with both my parents under one roof. Soon afterwards, I went to live with my grandmother in the Free State and my mom stayed in Mahikeng. Growing up in an extended family, I was never lonely. My cousins and I were the same age and very close; the girls were my best friends and the boys taught me how to hold my own when I was outnumbered by them – something that’s really helped me in the comedy world, which can be a ‘boys’ club’. I’ve wanted to be a performer since I was five years old.

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We had watched a theatre performance of The Sound of Music, which left me spellbound. From that moment I knew I wanted to be on stage. After I finished school, I moved to Joburg to study drama at Wits University. My first stand-up performance was as a student at a corporate event. It was nerve-racking but the comedy bug bit. In 2005 I took part in a show for amateur performers at Carnival City. I used my own material and from the lack of response from the audience, I thought that they hated it. I guess I was wrong because a few days later I got a call from legendary SA comedian Joe Parker, who asked me to perform again.

I started getting paid for my stand-up comedy and began writing material for SABC’s sitcom Nomzamo as well as the popular series, Muvhango. My eldest son Bonsu didn’t think I was funny until he saw me on stage. My kids aren’t really exposed to my work so every time Bonsu, who’s eight years old, heard an interviewer comment on my comedy he’d say, ‘But you’re not funny.’ It was only when he saw me perform in Cape Town in 2016 that he looked at me diferently. Ever since then, he tells me a joke every day – I’m not sure if he’s auditioning to be my opening act or if he’s giving me material! After I had a car accident last year, I try to live more in the moment.

It was the scariest but most humbling experience of my life. Until the accident I had lost sight of what was important – like my family and health. I’m grateful that no one was seriously hurt, but now I strive to protect myself and my family more, especially from what I share with the public. Leaving Jacaranda FM has freed me up to focus on other projects. I have more time to write for my production company WhatNot Entertainment, work on my new one-woman show, and finish my tell-all book, which will be launched later this year.

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