What do you do?
I am a comedian, ventriloquist and social anthropologist. I use humour and my understanding of corporate culture to improve workplace dynamics. I also have an insanely funny theatre show, My Pro-Doll and NuroFriends, which is on at the moment at the Theatre on the Square in Sandton.
What training do you have?
I have a BSocSci (hons) from UCT and an MA in social anthropology from Wits.
Why did you become a ventriloquist?
It was a hobby as a kid. When I was studying it became obvious that this was a captivating and unique way to convey ideas and propel change.
Without giving away your tricks of the trade, how do you throw your voice?
The whole show is prerecorded ... just kidding. Our minds place sound on the most likely source. If my lips aren't moving, and the puppet looks alive, then that's where your mind will place it.
Like in the movies, the sound is actually coming from speakers on the side.
You were named entertainer of the year last year, what has that meant for you as a performer?
Just an acknowledgement of how much work I have done to improve the quality of my offering. There's still a long way to go.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
From my fiancÃ©e and artistic muse, Ghia Human, from my awesome director Heinrich Reisenhofer and comedically from my buddies on the Late Night Newswith the Loyiso Gola team.
Tell me more about your show My Pro-Doll and NuroFriends and the friends who share a stage with you?
The show is my attempt to take comedy and, in particular, ventriloquism further on a world level. The characters are made by cutting-edge special effects designers, and the story is insanely fun. This is a one-man play, with puppets who dance, puppets who pee, and a multimedia extravaganza to boot.
Chester Missing is well known on SA TV. There is also the has-been, alcoholic show girl ostrich, Hilary and Ronnie ... well you would have to see him to believe it.
The show is the result of a partnership with Altech Autopage Cellular, how important are these kinds of partnerships in South African theatre?
Essential, on several fronts. Firstly, the costs of setting up a theatre show for more than a night or two are prohibitively expensive, so corporate support makes a huge difference.
Secondly, Altech Autopage Cellular, in particular, is aimed at connecting people, in both their product and ethos. A hi-tech (the entire set is radio controlled!), fun, young, high connect show needs support from a brand that catches these same values.
Did you always want to be an entertainer?
Yes. I love making people laugh. I would never have thought it was possible to do what I do for a living, but it seems you can!
What was your first job?
Madly enough, I have never done anything else - but bear in mind that when one goes from doing comedy for 5000 people at Blacks Only, to helping Gold Fields implement corporate change using puppets, it's like having a multiplicity of jobs.
Your job must involve a lot of hard work - do you need to do specific exercises to keep yourself in shape?
Of course! On a physical front I have to do vocal exercises to maintain my voice. However, as a comedian, this is probably the smallest aspect of what I do - all my work is about helping people to connect more (umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu). I have to be constantly updated with where things are at politically and with regards to current affairs and, of course, I am always looking for ways to make my puppets and puppetry skills better. So the vocal aspect of what I do is one of many vital work areas.
I am sure every day is very different, but what do you usually do in terms of work each day?
Every day I need to read what's going on - newspapers and online. I will spend a few hours writing material, and then spend an hour or two practising. However, this is usually shunted around my corporate comedy work schedule, which is quite full.
What is your favourite time of day?
Early evening, all my best ideas come then.
What do you find most challenging about your work?
The incredible diversity of our country. I might be doing a show for a billionaire businessman in the morning and entertaining the people who make food on a Free State gold mine that afternoon - making these different people laugh takes work.
What do you most enjoy about your work?
That moment when, in gales of laughter, these vastly different types connect and find commonality in our shared South Africaness. On the other hand, it's also the pure craziness of what I do - my job is talking to puppets!
Author: Margaret Harris
Source: Times Live