“If you go to Cape Town there’s a lot of coloured people, right,” David Kibuuka replies after I ask what he makes of all the SXSW hipsters. “But I wouldn’t say Cape Town is a coloured place. There just happen to be coloured people too. In the same way when you come to Austin there’s a lot of hipsters. So if you came here and asked me if this a hipster place, I wouldn’t say that. But if we were going to discuss hipsterness then we would do it here, so that the hipsters wouldn’t have to travel that far.” A jaunty grin appears as he continues, “And South Africa would send their hipster chairman to talk about topics affecting hipsterism.”
Kibuuka takes a premise, disproves it, and while thinking about both sides to an argument he finds the funny in all of that. It’s a process that has made the 34-year-old one of the funniest comedians on South African TV as a ranting Late Nite News correspondent.
America Meet World
Seen as Africa’s answer to The Daily Show, Late Nite News has twice been nominated for an International Emmy, and after Trevor Noah joined Jon Stewart’s show in December, it would seem there’s a renewed appetite for South African comedy in America.
“That just helps,” David says of Trevor’s success. “You know if your cousin is Cristiano Ronaldo your life is just going to be better, just by the pure fact that your cousin in Cristiano Ronaldo. Every time [Trevor] wins, it makes it easier for us.”
David came to speak at SXSW about the way global satirists see America, an opportunity made possible to some extent by Trevor Noah being on The Daily Show. “It gives us a reference point when we present our panel at SXSW or pitch a show to UCB,” says Trina DasGupta, founder of the first global comedy platform America Meet World. Through conferences like SXSW, digital video projects and comedy showcases, DasGupta introduce Americans to some of the best comedians from around the world, comedians like David Kibuuka.
At SXSW Americans wanted to know from these satirists what they expect from America’s next president. “What we’re hoping for,” David answers on behalf of South Africa, “or at least what I’m hoping for, is that they’d allow a woman to be president at least just once. For so long, for hundreds of years, people have done things just because they are men. Maybe we should give women just a chance. Maybe they’ll completely mess that up but just give it a try. Oprah must also be in there somewhere. She just has to be. That would be my dream.”
Comedy is universal
The reason why David — like myriad other South African comedians — can make America laugh is because comedy is universal. “So if I can make Americans laugh it means this thing should be universal,” David tells me afterwards, “so why aren’t we all being universal with everything.”
During the SXSW panel discussion an American asks David why the world is so fascinated by their country. “You pay a lot of money to people to get you things,” he says referring to paying someone in Austin to give him a cup of coffee. “Why are we paying [each other] all this money to hand things to another?” he asks as the crowd roars with laughter, a statement that could very well be applied to most startups in America’s booming sharing economy. Think about it: Uber, Airbnb and Instacart are all companies based on this principle.
David is a natural fit at a conference like SXSW where you meet people from all walks of life. Born in Uganda, David’s family moved to South Africa in the 1980s as Idi Amin’s power grip on Uganda grew. With an honours degree in finance, and outliving Amin and apartheid, David believed he could do anything he put his mind to. After a confrontation with a customer put his career as a waiter on hold, he tried stand-up comedy and after just a few shows landed a role on the Pure Monate Show. Followed by work on Laugh Out Loud, The Coconuts and Last Say on Sunday, David has been the “foreign correspondent” on Loyiso Gola’s Late Nite News since the show started in 2010. He’s also done voice-over work and can be spotted in some of Die Antwoord music videos.
David on tech
David orders a non-alcoholic O’Doul’s beer at a downtown Mexican restaurant in Austin where we’ve ended up with a group of South Africans also visiting Austin. Since this is an interview for a technology website, I should probably ask him something about tech. Noticing his iPhone I ask if he’s ever considered Android.
“I don’t even know what Android is. I just decided I am going to be an Apple person so I bought everything Apple. Then people started with the apps: people pressured me saying that I need all these apps. I couldn’t keep up. It was just too much so I got rid of all those apps. I mean Shazam: what happened to just asking ‘excuse me, what’s that song?'”
While on the topic of music, I ask him if he owns an iPod. He does, David says, in fact he owns five. Five? Yes, five. One for every different music genre he likes. One for African music, one for Spanish, another a friend gave him and one an indie DJ filled with indie. Oh and then there’s one with just “general music”. They have different colours but not because he can’t tell them apart.
David takes his job as a comedian very seriously. Being on TV allows him an opportunity to teach people and entertain them. In a multi-platform world he believes TV is still the most powerful form of media.
“Social media doesn’t have an audience. Social media is the equivalent of 98-billion channels. So that’s where it’s a tricky one. Trevor got big from someone sharing a BBC gig he did. This person shared it and it just exploded. But there was no process that was followed to get there. Still it was through TV that he got to where he is.”
If you’re in New York this week be sure to catch the America Meet World comedians at Stand Up NY. Click here for more info.
André-Pierre via Flickr.